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Researchers find link between brain activity and depressed mood


Researchers from University of California San Francisco have identified a common pattern of brain activity linked to feelings of low mood, particularly in people who have a tendency toward anxiety.

The findings published in the journal Cellcould help scientists to develop new therapies to help people with mood disorders such as depression by convincing the brain to ‘unlearn’ the detrimental signaling patterns of these diseases, according to researchers at the UCSF.

The study was funded by the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

“It is remarkable that we are able to see the actual neural substrates of human mood directly from the brain,” study leader Dr Edward Chang, a UCSF Health neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, said in a press release.

“The findings have scientific implications for our understanding of how specific brain regions contribute to mood disorders, but also practical implications for identifying biomarkers that could be used for new technology designed to treat these disorders, which is a major priority of our SUBNETS effort,” Chang said.

The researchers recruited 21 patient volunteers with epilepsy who had had 40 to 70 electrodes implanted on the brain’s surface and in deeper structures of the brain as part of standard preparation for surgery to remove seizure-causing brain tissue.

Over seven to 10 days,the researchers recorded a wide range of brain activity in these patients over the course of seven to 10 days, particularly focusing on certain deep brain structures that have been previously implicated in mood regulation.

The researchers then used computational algorithms to match patterns of brain activity to changes in the patients’ reported mood. Patients logged their mood throughout the day.

These new algorithms were developed by the lead author, Lowry Kirkby, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Sohal lab, and Francisco Luongo, PhD, a recent alumnus of UCSF’s Neuroscience Graduate Program.

In the past, most human brain research on mood disorders relied on studies in which participants lie in an fMRI scanner and look at upsetting images or listen to sad stories.

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