Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Types of psychological depression


We wanted to examine tolerability and efficacy of NSI-189, a benzylpiperizine-aminiopyridine neurogenic compound for treating major depressive disorder (MDD). This was a Phase 1B, double blind, randomized, placebo controlled, multiple-dose study with three cohorts. The first cohort received 40 mg q.d. (n=6) or placebo (n=2), the second cohort 40 mg b.i.d. (n=6) or placebo (n=2), and the third cohort 40 mg t.i.d. (n=6) or placebo (n=2). Twenty-four patients with MDD were recruited, with the diagnosis and severity confirmed through remote interviews. Eligible patients received NSI-189 or placebo for 28 days in an inpatient setting with assessments for safety, pharmacokinetics (PK) and efficacy. Outpatient follow-up visits were conducted until day 84 (±3). NSI-189 was relatively well tolerated at all doses, with no serious adverse effects. NSI-189 area under the curve increased in a dose-related and nearly proportional manner across the three cohorts, with a half-life of 17.4-20.5 h. The exploratory efficacy measurements, including Symptoms Of Depression Questionnaire (SDQ), Montgomery-Asberg Depression Scale (MADRS), Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement (CGI-I), and The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cognitive and Physical Functioning Questionnaire (CPFQ) showed a promising reduction in depressive and cognitive symptoms across all measures for NSI-189, with significant improvement in the SDQ and CPFQ, and a medium to large effect size for all measures. These improvements persisted during the follow-up phase. In summary, NSI-189 shows potential as a treatment for MDD in an early phase study. The main limitation of this preliminary study was the small sample size of each cohort.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 8 December 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.178.

Concepts: Sample size, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Dysthymia, Depression, Types of psychological depression


BACKGROUND: There is a significant treatment gap for patients with depression. A third of sufferers never seek help, and the vast majority of those who do only do so after considerable delay. Little is understood regarding poor help-seeking rates amongst people with depression, with existing research mainly focussed on the impact of barriers to treatment. The current study explored psychological factors affecting help-seeking behaviour in clinically depressed individuals. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 current or previously clinically depressed participants who either had or had not sought professional help. Thematic analysis was used to analyse results. RESULTS: The onset of depressive symptoms created conflict with participants' identity and personal goals. Delays in seeking help were primarily attributed to the desire to protect identity and goals from the threat of depressive symptoms. Participants used avoidance strategies to reduce the perceived threat of depressive symptoms on identity. These strategies interfered with help-seeking. Help-seeking was only undertaken once participants reached a point of acceptance and began to make concessions in their identity and goals, at which time they reduced their use of avoidance. CONCLUSIONS: Difficulties resolving conflict between identity and depressive symptoms may account for significant delays in seeking help for depression. The results have implications for predicting health behaviour and improving treatment uptake for depression, and may inform existing help-seeking models.

Concepts: Cognitive behavioral therapy, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Dysthymia, Types of psychological depression, Suicide, Leonard Cohen


Previous reports of altered grey and white matter structure in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) have been inconsistent. Recent meta-analyses have, however, reported reduced hippocampal grey matter volume in MDD and reduced white matter integrity in several brain regions. The use of different diagnostic criteria, scanners and imaging sequences may, however, obscure further anatomical differences. In this study, we tested for differences in subcortical grey matter volume (n = 1157) and white matter integrity (n = 1089) between depressed individuals and controls in the subset of 8590 UK Biobank Imaging study participants who had undergone depression assessments. Whilst we found no significant differences in subcortical volumes, significant reductions were found in depressed individuals versus controls in global white matter integrity, as measured by fractional anisotropy (FA) (β = -0.182, p = 0.005). We also found reductions in FA in association/commissural fibres (β = -0.184, pcorrected = 0.010) and thalamic radiations (β = -0.159, pcorrected = 0.020). Tract-specific FA reductions were also found in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus (β = -0.194, pcorrected = 0.025), superior thalamic radiation (β = -0.224, pcorrected = 0.009) and forceps major (β = -0.193, pcorrected = 0.025) in depression (all betas standardised). Our findings provide further evidence for disrupted white matter integrity in MDD.

Concepts: Human brain, Hippocampus, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Dysthymia, Types of psychological depression, Subcortical ischemic depression


A growing body of research demonstrates that individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) are characterized by shortened telomere length, which has been posited to underlie the association between depression and increased instances of medical illness. The temporal nature of the relation between MDD and shortened telomere length, however, is not clear. Importantly, both MDD and telomere length have been associated independently with high levels of stress, implicating dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and anomalous levels of cortisol secretion in this relation. Despite these associations, no study has assessed telomere length or its relation with HPA-axis activity in individuals at risk for depression, before the onset of disorder. In the present study, we assessed cortisol levels in response to a laboratory stressor and telomere length in 97 healthy young daughters of mothers either with recurrent episodes of depression (i.e., daughters at familial risk for depression) or with no history of psychopathology. We found that daughters of depressed mothers had shorter telomeres than did daughters of never-depressed mothers and, further, that shorter telomeres were associated with greater cortisol reactivity to stress. This study is the first to demonstrate that children at familial risk of developing MDD are characterized by accelerated biological aging, operationalized as shortened telomere length, before they had experienced an onset of depression; this may predispose them to develop not only MDD but also other age-related medical illnesses. It is critical, therefore, that we attempt to identify and distinguish genetic and environmental mechanisms that contribute to telomere shortening.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 30 September 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.119.

Concepts: Senescence, Illness, Telomere, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Depression, Types of psychological depression


Adversity, particularly in early life, can cause illness. Clues to the responsible mechanisms may lie with the discovery of molecular signatures of stress, some of which include alterations to an individual’s somatic genome. Here, using genome sequences from 11,670 women, we observed a highly significant association between a stress-related disease, major depression, and the amount of mtDNA (p = 9.00 × 10(-42), odds ratio 1.33 [95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.29-1.37]) and telomere length (p = 2.84 × 10(-14), odds ratio 0.85 [95% CI = 0.81-0.89]). While both telomere length and mtDNA amount were associated with adverse life events, conditional regression analyses showed the molecular changes were contingent on the depressed state. We tested this hypothesis with experiments in mice, demonstrating that stress causes both molecular changes, which are partly reversible and can be elicited by the administration of corticosterone. Together, these results demonstrate that changes in the amount of mtDNA and telomere length are consequences of stress and entering a depressed state. These findings identify increased amounts of mtDNA as a molecular marker of MD and have important implications for understanding how stress causes the disease.

Concepts: DNA, Causality, Illness, Experiment, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Types of psychological depression


The habenula is a small, evolutionarily conserved brain structure that plays a central role in aversive processing and is hypothesised to be hyperactive in depression, contributing to the generation of symptoms such as anhedonia. However, habenula responses during aversive processing have yet to be reported in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). Unmedicated and currently depressed MDD patients (N=25, aged 18-52 years) and healthy volunteers (N=25, aged 19-52 years) completed a passive (Pavlovian) conditioning task with appetitive (monetary gain) and aversive (monetary loss and electric shock) outcomes during high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging; data were analysed using computational modelling. Arterial spin labelling was used to index resting-state perfusion and high-resolution anatomical images were used to assess habenula volume. In healthy volunteers, habenula activation increased as conditioned stimuli (CSs) became more strongly associated with electric shocks. This pattern was significantly different in MDD subjects, for whom habenula activation decreased significantly with increasing association between CSs and electric shocks. Individual differences in habenula volume were negatively associated with symptoms of anhedonia across both groups. MDD subjects exhibited abnormal negative task-related (phasic) habenula responses during primary aversive conditioning. The direction of this effect is opposite to that predicted by contemporary theoretical accounts of depression based on findings in animal models. We speculate that the negative habenula responses we observed may result in the loss of the capacity to actively avoid negative cues in MDD, which could lead to excessive negative focus.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 31 May 2016; doi:10.1038/mp.2016.81.

Concepts: Magnetic resonance imaging, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Mood disorder, Dysthymia, Types of psychological depression


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is efficacious for acute treatment of resistant major depressive disorder (MDD), but there is little information on maintenance TMS after acute response.

Concepts: Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Types of psychological depression


OBJECTIVES: To evaluate temperament and character traits using the Junior Temperament and Character Inventory (JTCI) in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD) in comparison with healthy control subjects (HC), and to verify if comorbidity with disruptive behavioral disorders and being currently depressed influence JTCI scores. METHODS: A case-control study comprising 41 MDD children/adolescents matched to 40 HC by gender and age (8-17years). All participants were assessed diagnostically with the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia - Present and Lifetime (K-SADS-PL). Temperament and character traits were measured with the parent and child versions of JTCI, and depression was evaluated with the Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS). RESULTS: According to child and parent data, MDD subjects had significantly higher scores on harm avoidance and novelty seeking, and lower scores on reward dependence, persistence, self-directedness and cooperativeness compared with HC. According to parent data only, MDD subjects significantly differed from HC on self-transcendence (lower spirituality scores and higher fantasy scores). Comorbidity with disruptive behavioral disorders exerted influence on almost all dimensions, in general increasing the mean differences between MDD and HC subjects. Also, being currently depressed did not influence the results, except for reward dependence according to parent data. LIMITATIONS: The cross-sectional nature of the study and its limited sample size. CONCLUSIONS: MDD children/adolescents have a different temperament and character profile compared to HC subjects. This study supports previous findings of trait-like characteristics of harm avoidance and self-directedness.

Concepts: Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Types of psychological depression, Rating scale, Temperament and Character Inventory, Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire


Like many other mental disorders, depression is characterised by psychological inflexibility. Two instances of such inflexibility are rumination: repetitive cognitions focusing on the causes and consequences of depressive symptoms; and emotional inertia: the tendency for affective states to be resistant to change. In two studies, we tested the predictions that: (1) rumination and emotional inertia are related; and (2) both independently contribute to depressive symptoms. We examined emotional inertia of subjective affective experiences in daily life among a sample of non-clinical undergraduates (Study 1), and of affective behaviours during a family interaction task in a sample of clinically depressed and non-depressed adolescents (Study 2), and related it to self-reported rumination and depression severity. In both studies, rumination (particularly the brooding facet) and emotional inertia (particularly of sad/dysphoric affect) were positively associated, and both independently predicted depression severity. These findings demonstrate the importance of studying both cognitive and affective inflexibility in depression.

Concepts: Psychology, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, Emotion, Dysthymia, Types of psychological depression, Suicide, Rumination


Major depressive disorder may be due to psychoneuroimmunological dysfunction, as studies have documented increased levels of a variety of inflammatory mediators in depressed subjects. Nitric oxide (NO) is marker of inflammation, and fractional exhaled NO (FeNO) is a marker of airway inflammation. Plasma NO and FeNO levels have been shown to be lower in subjects with depression in small studies. We sought to assess the association of depression with C-reactive protein (CRP) and FeNO levels in a large and representative sample of the US population.

Concepts: Inflammation, Nitric oxide, Bipolar disorder, Major depressive disorder, Seasonal affective disorder, C-reactive protein, Types of psychological depression, Exhaled nitric oxide