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February 28, 2010

Childhood abuse may cause structural brain damages

DUBLIN: According to a new study by the scientists at Trinity College Dublin, emotional abuse & stress during childhood can cause structural brain damages.

The researchers after using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), showed that childhood stress due to emotional negligence or abuse, especially when combined with genetic factors can result in structural changes in brain & may make people more vulnerable to get depression.

Emotional stress during childhood could due to various factors like negligence, pressure by parents & peers, sexual abuse, stress due to poor performances at school & also at times, comparison with siblings or friends. This stress can affect the child severely & lead towards depression in their adulthood.

The study was conducted on 24 patients aged between 18-65 years who were being treated for major depression. They were investigated with high-resolution structural MRI & childhood stress assessments. Special analysis programs were used to measure brain regions. These patients were compared with 27 healthy control subjects from the local community who were matched for age & gender.

This neurobiological study will help in understanding how stress & genetic variants interact & affect brain structure & function & how it leads a person to depressive moods. These structural alterations of the brain are associated with a higher vulnerability to depression & a more chronic course of the depression might be associated with further structural changes.

According to Thomas Frodl, professor at the School of Medicine & Trinity Institute for Neuroscience, taking early steps in case of major depression is necessary for better outcome. Depression can be treated by psychotherapy & antidepressant medications. Moreover, taking preventive steps early is important for public health & reduces depression in such individuals.

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