Adults who experience stress due to abusive behavior during childhood are more likely to experience depression in their later years, revealed a new study.
A study published in the Journal Biological Psychiatry
analyzed 106 adolescents in the age group of 11-15 years. The study was conducted by researchers at the Duke University and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio.
‘Stress experienced due to abuse or neglect as children may grow over a time and make even a cheerful person develop depression later in life.’
They looked at the deep brain region called ventral striatum which processess happy and positive emotions that are normally reduced in depressed people. The participants were subjected to MRI scanning along with measurements of mood and neglect.
They found that sensitization of the brain circuits during childhood is associated with processing of stress responses. This stress sensitization contributes to the reduction in a person's ability to experience positive or rewarding emotions.
"Our analyses revealed that over a two-year window during early to mid-adolescence, there was an abnormal decrease in the response of the ventral striatum to reward only in adolescents who had been exposed to emotional neglect, a relatively common form of childhood adversity where parents are persistently emotionally unresponsive and unavailable to their children," explained Dr. Jamie Hanson, first author of the study.
"Importantly, we further showed that this decrease in ventral striatum activity predicted the emergence of depressive symptoms during this key developmental period. Our work is consistent with other recent studies finding deficient reward processing in depression, and further underscores the importance of considering such developmental pathways in efforts to protect individuals exposed to childhood adversity from later depression," he added.
The study suggests that early life stress affects the capacity to experience enthusiasm or pleasure. Early life stress may grow over a time and make even a cheerful person to develop depression later in life.
Reference: "Blunted Ventral Striatum Development in Adolescence Reflects Emotional Neglect and Predicts Depressive Symptoms" by Jamie L. Hanson, Ahmad R. Hariri, and Douglas E. Williamson (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.05.010). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry
, Volume 78, Issue 9 (November 1, 2015), published by Elsevier.