Researchers Discover Possible Depression Signature in Traumatic Brain Injury

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New Study Considers Connection Between Depression and TBI

What is the link between suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and developing depression? According to a recent article in Neuroscience News, the findings of a recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology Neurotrauma determined that “individuals with traumatic brain injury and depressions exhibit increased brain connectivity between multiple regions and sub-networks of the brain and the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing.” To be clear, such increased brain activity is higher than it is in people who show some or no symptoms of depression.

How did the researchers conduct the study? They looked at MRI scans from 54 different patients with a TBI and chronic depression. Of the group, 31 patients had TBI symptoms in addition to depressive symptoms that ranged from mild to severe, while 23 had not suffered a TBI but showed signs of mild to severe depression.

The researchers found that there were “differences in brain connectivity patterns that predicted the type of depressive symptoms, specifically whether individuals leaned toward cognitive symptoms . . . or affective thought.” Such symptoms would show the potential correlation between a head injury and a person’s thought patterns and general mood. Dr. Kihwan Han, the lead author of the study who currently serves as a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas explained that there is a need for this research because it can be difficult to determine whether someone is suffering TBI symptoms or depression symptoms.

As Dr. Han clarified, “it is very difficult to tell the difference between traumatic brain injury symptoms and depression symptoms.” Does this mean TBIs can result in depression? Researchers are not yet confident in saying there is a direct link, but the recent study highlights the similarities in brain responses and may be able to give physicians new ways of assessing TBIs and individual treatment plans. The research could help not only people who sustain TBIs and require treatment to live healthy lives, but also individuals who suffer from depression and have never sustained a TBI.

Getting the Facts About TBIs

What should you know about traumatic brain injuries? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following facts and figures:

  • Approximately 1.7 million people suffer TBIs each year;
  • 52,000 people die every year as a result of suffering a TBI;
  • About 275,000 people require hospitalization each year from TBIs;
  • TBIs contribute to almost one-third of all deaths in the country each year;
  • Some age groups are more likely to sustain a TBI than others, including those under the age of 4, between the ages of 15-19, and over the age of 65; and
  • Adults who are 75 years old and older are most likely to require hospitalization as a result of a TBI, and they are also most likely to suffer a fatal TBI.

If you or someone you love suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you should discuss your case with a brain injury attorney to determine your rights.

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