Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Gene Variation May Flag Risk for Early-Onset Depression

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Gene Variation May Flag Risk for Early-Onset Depression

Article excerpt

BARCELONA -- Patients with childhood-onset depression who have a variant in the gene that codes for brain-derived neurotrophic factor also show unique variations in their electroencephalograms, opening the door to a possible screening tool for children deemed at risk for these psychiatric disorders.

Although the evidence is preliminary, "We're getting pretty good data showing that people who are at risk of early-onset depression can be identified by a combination of EEG and genetic information," Dr. James Kennedy said at the annual congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

"The gene that codes for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been studied for about 15 years," Dr. Kennedy said. "Emerging evidence indicates that this protein, which is reduced in depression, rises in the bloodstream after treatment with antidepressants or electroconvulsive therapy." Postmortem studies of suicide completers have shown that the protein is significantly decreased, compared with controls, he said.

As head of psychiatric neurogenetics at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Dr. Kennedy has been one of the key players in proving a link between the genetic variant and early-onset depression. Working with Maria Kovacs, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Kennedy has confirmed this link in two large data sets--a group of 191 patients (children and adults) in the United States, with up to 25 years of follow-up, and a cohort of 258 child patients in Hungary. …

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