"Early Childhood Depression and Alterations in the Trajectory of Gray Matter Maturation in Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence."

This article was sent to me by Dr. Ken Pope:

*JAMA: Psychiatry* has scheduled a study for publication in a future issue: "Early Childhood Depression and Alterations in the Trajectory of Gray Matter Maturation in Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence."

The authors are Joan L. Luby, MD1; Andy C. Belden, PhD1; Joshua J. Jackson, PhD2; Christina N. Lessov-Schlaggar, PhD1; Michael P. Harms, PhD1; Rebecca Tillman, MS1; Kelly Botteron, MD1,3; Diana Whalen, PhD1; Deanna M. Barch, PhD1,2,3,4.

PLEASE NOTE: As usual, I'll include both the author's email address (for requesting electronic reprints) and a link to the complete article at the end below.

Here's how the article opens: "Longitudinal studies of childhood structural brain development using magnetic resonance imaging in healthy children have begun to map the normative pattern of development of gray matter from school age through adolescence.1 Although development of gray matter begins in utero, there has been much interest in its trajectory during the school-age and early adolescent period.2 The specific cellular processes that underlie gray matter change during this period in humans remain to be elucidated. In contrast with white matter, which shows linear increases in volume, findings suggest a pattern of rapid neurogenesis and related increases in gray matter volume during early childhood, peaking in early puberty followed by a process of selective elimination and myelination, resulting in volume loss and thinning.3- 5 The inverted U-shaped trajectory of the development of cortical and subcortical gray matter regions is influenced by sex, pubertal status, IQ, and genetic and psychosocial factors.6,7 The characteristics of this inverted U-shaped trajectory for gray matter have been associated with function across several domains.5 More important, associations between cortical thickness, mood regulation, and executive functioning have been demonstrated in cross-sectional analyses.8,9 There is some evidence that this synaptic pruning-based volume decline is associated with experience-dependent plasticity.10- 12 The notion that the rate of decline of cortical gray matter in humans could vary based on history of experience has powerful public health implications."


Here's how the Discussion section opens: "These longitudinal findings demonstrate marked bilateral decreases in thickness of cortical gray matter and in volume of the right hemisphere (with marginal significance on the left hemisphere) associated with mean level of depression symptom scores and MDD diagnosis experienced from preschool to school age. Children with depression symptom scores 2 SDs above the mean had reduction in volumes of gray matter at almost twice the rate of those with no childhood depression symptoms. Similarly, cortical thickness also decreased more rapidly at almost the same rate. To our knowledge, these findings provide the first longitudinal neuroimaging data showing increases in rates of volume reduction and cortical thinning related to number of childhood depression symptoms and diagnosis during the preschool-age to school-age period."


Here's how the article closes: "Of critical importance is that childhood depressive symptoms were associated with decline in volume and thickness of cortical gray matter even after accounting for other key factors known to affect this developmental process. These findings of markedly increased rates of cortical volume loss and thinning across the entire cortex underscore the importance of attention to childhood depression as a marker of altered childhood cortical brain development. Whether these early alterations serve as an endophenotype of risk for later depressive episodes or chronic course is a question of interest as the study sample is followed up through adolescence. The study findings signal the need for greater public health attention and screening for depression in young children.52"


REPRINTS: oan L. Luby, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, Campus Box 8134, 660 S Euclid, St Louis, MO, 63110 lubyj@psychiatry.wustl.edu

The article is online at:


Ken Pope