Scientists from the University of Cambridge have discovered a cognitive biomarker — a biological indicator of a disease — for young adolescents who are at high risk of developing depression and anxiety.
The test for the unique cognitive biomarker could be used as an inexpensive tool to screen adolescents for common emotional mental illnesses. As the cognitive biomarker may appear prior to the symptoms of depression and anxiety, early intervention could then be initiated.
“The evidence is that both our genes and our early childhood experiences contribute to such personal thinking styles. Before there are any clinical symptoms of depression or anxiety, this test reveals a deficient ability to efficiently and effectively perceive emotion processes in some teenagers — a biomarker for low resilience which may lead to mental illnesses.” says professor Ian Goodyer, Principal Investigator in this study.
The study suggests that adolescents with a variation of one gene (the short form of the serotonin transporter) as well as exposure to intermittent family arguments for longer than six months and violence between parents before the age of six were shown to have marked difficulty in evaluating the emotion within the words, indicating an inability to process emotional information.
The scientists hope that their research could lead to developing inexpensive cognitive tests to screen for these illnesses, particularly in people identified as being at high social and genetic risk.
These findings were published on, 28 November, in the journal PLOS ONE
- Experts Call for Mental Illness Screening for Children (nlm.nih.gov)
- Scientists identify depression and anxiety biomarker in youths (sciencedaily.com)
- Scientists identify depression and anxiety biomarker in youths (eurekalert.org)
- Computer test could spot children at risk of developing depression (guardian.co.uk)
- Antidepressants Could Be the Future For Teens With a Certain Biomarker (webpronews.com)
- 5-HTTLPR and Early Childhood Adversities Moderate Cognitive and Emotional Processing in Adolescence (plosone.org)
- Watch for childhood depression, experts say (theglobeandmail.com)