Brains with compromised trust metrics are a harbinger of hidden depression

Summary: Shrunken gray matter volume in brain areas associated with social cognition and a compromised ability to trust others is linked to vulnerability to depression and could be used as a biomarker for the onset of depressive symptoms, a new report reports. study.

Source: Hiroshima University

Just as computing devices acting differently can hint at the possibility of malware lurking in the background, changes in brain patterns that shape trusting behavior can warn of depression even if symptoms are still in stealth mode. according to a study.

Brain scans have revealed that reduced gray matter volumes in regions of the ‘social brain’ – neural networks involved in social cognition – linked to compromised trust ability shared a link with vulnerability to depression that could help to its early detection.

The findings of the study have been published in Scientific reports last October.

“Our question was: can we use information about social personality to predict the development of mental disorders, such as depression?” said Alan SR Fermin, corresponding author of the study and assistant professor (special appointment) at Hiroshima University’s KANSEI Center for Brain, Mind and Science Research.

“Having tools that help identify early signs of mental disorders could speed up medical or therapeutic interventions.”

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, is a pervasive mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Despite having severe symptoms that interfere with daily life, many people, for various reasons, delay seeing a doctor, which leads to a worsening of their condition.

When severe signs of MDD are already visible, doctors can easily make a diagnosis. But at this point, treatment can become more difficult as the response to medication is reduced, thus requiring more aggressive interventions.

While their findings add to previous studies that have shown a link between confidence and depression, they were the first to uncover the neuroanatomical basis of this relationship.

Trust is associated with the expectation of kindness and reciprocal cooperation from others as well as respect for social norms.

However, trusting others is not an easy task because unexpected aversive social interactions are often observed in different environmental contexts, such as gossip or bullying at school, harassment at work or even physical violence at home. the House.

Distrust and individual differences in the trust of others have been shown to negatively affect mental health, as low-confidence people tend to isolate themselves from social interactions and, as a result, develop depression.

“In our study, we not only reproduced the association between lack of confidence and depression, but we also demonstrated that the brain regions associated with confidence were also associated with the degree of depressive symptoms one year in advance” , said Fermin.

“Overall, we found that the less confident brains showed reduced gray matter volume in brain regions involved in social cognition. Additionally, we found that this reduction in gray matter volume in low-confidence people was similar to the brains of real-life depression patients. So even though our participants had not been diagnosed with depression, their brains were already showing signs of depression.

Structural neuroimaging analyzes by the researchers showed that low confidence and high depressive symptoms are linked to reduced gray matter volumes in the brain’s bilateral angular gyrus, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, bilateral dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, bilateral precuneus, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (right frontal pole and right rectus gyrus), and the left posterior cingulate cortex.

Whole-brain voxel-based morphometry analysis of their study sample also showed that as confidence levels decrease, gray matter volume in the parahippocampus-amygdala region also shrivels.

They are regions of the brain that help humans control their emotions, think, and predict the mental states and behaviors of others. Thus, the reduced volume of these brain regions in low-confidence people suggests possible disturbances in the control of emotions and in the estimation of the reliability of others, which may contribute to the development of depression.

However, the cause of the shrinkage of these brain regions is still unknown.

To better understand the neuroanatomical link between confidence and vulnerability to depression, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to examine the gray matter volume of 470 healthy participants living in and around Machida, a suburb of Tokyo. , in Japan.

This shows a woman alone in a crowd
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, is a pervasive mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Image is in public domain

They then used psychological questionnaires to measure trust, social anxiety and social network size. Participants were also asked to self-report symptoms of depression they might be experiencing through a psychiatric questionnaire as an indicator of vulnerability to MDD.

To validate their findings, the researchers recruited 185 participants who were outpatients at Hiroshima University Hospital and other medical institutions in Hiroshima Prefecture.

They examined gray matter volume abnormalities in 81 of the participants who were diagnosed with clinical depression to see if brain regions linked to trust and depressive symptoms are indeed related to the actual neuroanatomical abnormalities commonly seen in patients with depression. CT.

“We hope that our results can support the development of institutional and social policies to increase social trust – for example, at work, at school or in the public space – and prevent the development of mental disorders,” said Fermin. .

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Researchers plan to find out what other personality types could be used as biosocial markers to predict the onset of mental disorders.

About this depression research

Author: Press office
Source: Hiroshima University
Contact: Press Office – Hiroshima University
Picture: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“The Neuroanatomy of Social Trust Predicts Vulnerability to Depression” by Alan SR Fermin et al. Scientific reports


The Neuroanatomy of Social Trust Predicts Vulnerability to Depression

The attitude of trust is a social personality trait related to the estimation of the reliability of others. Trusting others, however, can have significant negative effects on mental health, such as the development of depression.

Despite significant advances in understanding the neurobiology of trust, it is unclear whether the neuroanatomy of trust is related to vulnerability to depression.

To investigate a link between the neuroanatomy of trust and vulnerability to depression, we assessed trust and depressive symptoms and used neuroimaging to acquire data on the brain structure of healthy participants.

A high depressive symptom score was used as an indicator of vulnerability to depression. The neuroanatomical results observed with the healthy sample were validated on a sample of clinically diagnosed depressive patients.

We found significantly higher depressive symptoms in low-confidence people than in high-confidence people. Neuroanatomically, low-confidence and depressed patients showed similar volume reduction in brain regions involved in social cognition, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), dorsomedial PFC, posterior cingulate, precuneus, and gyrus. angular. Additionally, the reduced volume of the DLPFC and precuneus mediated the relationship between trust and depressive symptoms.

These results contribute to the understanding of social and neural markers of vulnerability to depression and may inform the development of social interventions to prevent pathological depression.

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