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DEPRESSION CHANGES GRAY MATTER IN YOUNG BRAIN

The brains of children who suffer clinical depression as preschoolers develop differently than those of preschoolers not affected by the disorder, a new study shows.

These children’s gray matter—tissue that connects brain cells and carries signals between those cells and is involved in seeing, hearing, memory, decision-making, and emotion—is lower in volume and thinner in the cortex, a part of the brain important in the processing of emotions.

“What is noteworthy about these findings is that we are able to see how a life experience—such as an episode of depression—can change the brain’s anatomy,” says first author Joan L. Luby, a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis whose earlier research established that children as young as three can experience depression.

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