News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Cognitive Ability in Childhood and the Chronicity and Suicidality of Depression

By Galen Chin-Lun Hung, Stefanie A. Pietras, Hannah Carliner, Laurie Martin, Larry J. Seidman, Stephen L. Buka, and Stephen E. Gilman | The British Journal of Psychiatry | November 2015

Abstract:

Background

There is inconsistent evidence regarding the influence of general cognitive abilities on the long-term course of depression.

Aims

To investigate the association between general childhood cognitive abilities and adult depression outcomes.

Method

We conducted a cohort study using data from 633 participants in the New England Family Study with lifetime depression. Cognitive abilities at age 7 were measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. Depression outcomes were assessed using structured diagnostic interviews administered up to four times in adulthood between ages 17 and 49.

Results

In analyses adjusting for demographic factors and parental psychiatric illness, low general cognitive ability (i.e. IQ<85 v. IQ>115) was associated with recurrent depressive episodes (odds ratio (OR) = 2.19, 95% CI 1.20–4.00), longer episode duration (rate ratio 4.21, 95% CI 2.24–7.94), admission to hospital for depression (OR = 3.65, 95% CI 1.34–9.93) and suicide ideation (OR = 3.79, 95% CI 1.79–8.02) and attempt (OR = 4.94, 95% CI 1.67–14.55).

Conclusions

Variation in cognitive abilities, predominantly within the normal range and established early in childhood, may confer long-term vulnerability for prolonged and severe depression. The mechanisms underlying this vulnerability need to be established to improve the prognosis of depression among individuals with lower cognitive abilities.

Read the full article here.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Prenatal Life Stress and Postpartum Depression Symptoms

By Cindy H. Liu, Rebecca Giallo, Stacey N. Doan, Larry J. Seidman, and Ed Tronick | Archives of Psychiatric Nursing | November 13, 2015

Abstract:

This study determined the risk of core depression symptoms based on life stress domains during pregnancy, and whether stressors varied by race/ethnicity. The sample consisted of 2,344 White, African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Massachusetts women who recently gave birth. African Americans and Hispanics who endorsed high relational and high financial stress were more likely to report high depressed mood and loss of interest; high physical stress was associated with high depressed mood among API. Screening based on life stress domains may be informative in determining risk for core depression symptoms during the postpartum period especially for minority groups.

Read the full article here.

Pharmacological Approaches to the Challenge of Treatment-Resistant Depression

By Dawn F. Ionescu, Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, and Jonathan E. Alpert | Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience | June 2015

Abstract:

Although monoaminergic antidepressants revolutionized the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) over a half-century ago, approximately one third of depressed patients experience treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Such patients account for a disproportionately large burden of disease, as evidenced by increased disability, cost, human suffering, and suicide. This review addresses the definition, causes, evaluation, and treatment of unipolar TRD, as well as the major treatment strategies, including optimization, augmentation, combination, and switch therapies. Evidence for these options, as outlined in this review, is mainly focused on large-scale trials or meta-analyses. Finally, we briefly review emerging targets for antidepressant drug discovery and the novel effects of rapidly acting antidepressants, with a focus on ketamine.

Read the full article here.

Older Adults with Depression and Mild Cognitive Impairment are More Vulnerable to Accelerated Brain Aging, Pitt Study Says

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations | August 7, 2014

People who develop depression and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) after age 65 are more likely to have biological and brain imaging markers that reflect a greater vulnerability for accelerated brain aging, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings were published online in Molecular Psychiatry.

Older adults with major depression have double the risk of developing dementia in the future compared with those who have never had the mood disorder, said senior investigator Meryl A. Butters, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine. But there’s no clear explanation for why a treatable mood disorder like depression leads to increased risk for dementia, a progressive brain disease. Until now, most studies have examined only one or two biomarkers to get at this question. Continue reading »