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Depression affects boys’ and girls’ brains differently

IANS | London |

Depression affects girls and boys differently as the mental disorder has different effects on the activity in certain brain regions, a study has found, suggesting that sex-specific treatments could be beneficial for such teenagers.

The findings showed that by 15 years of age, girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys because of body image issues, hormonal fluctuations and genetic factors, where girls are more at risk of inheriting depression. 

However, differences between the sexes do not just involve the risk of experiencing depression, but also how the disorder manifests and its consequences, the researchers said.

"Men are more liable to suffer from persistent depression, whereas in women depression tends to be more episodic," said Jie-Yu Chuang, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.

"Compared with women, depressed men are also more likely to suffer serious consequences from their depression, such as substance abuse and suicide," Chuang added.

For the study, recently published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, the team recruited 82 female and 24 male patients who suffered from depression, and 24 female and 10 male healthy volunteers, who were aged between 11 and 18 years. 

The researchers then exposed the depressed adolescents to happy or sad words and imaged their brains.

The results indicated that depression affects brain activity differently between boys and girls in brain regions such as the supramarginal gyrus and posterior cingulate.

"Sex-specific treatment and prevention strategies for depression should be considered early in adolescence. Hopefully, these early interventions could alter the disease trajectory before things get worse," Chuang explained.