After experiencing a brain injury, it is common for patients to display behavior that could be interpreted as symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to distinguish between symptoms of brain injury and depression, often preventing brain injury patients from receiving the psychiatric treatment they need to recover. A recent study published in the journal “Frontiers in Neurology Neurotrauma” reveals findings that may help doctors to determine whether brain injury patients are experiencing depression using a brain-based biomarker.
Brain injury and depression
Depression is quite common in victims of brain injury, with approximately half of all individuals who have experienced a traumatic brain injury being likely to begin experiencing symptoms of depression within a year of their injury. However, because of the complexity of depression and the myriad forms it can take, it has always been difficult for doctors to appropriately diagnose depression when a traumatic brain injury is also present.
The study found a possible brain-based biomarker that could make it easier for doctors to accurately diagnose depression among their brain injury patients. This is especially important as patients with co-occurring depression and brain injury have worse recovery outcomes, are more likely to attempt suicide, and often experience a range of sexual and social difficulties. An accurate diagnosis of depression can help them pursue the psychiatric care they require to experience better outcomes.
It was found that patients with both depression and a traumatic brain injury showed increased connectivity between regions of the brain and the amygdala (which is responsible for the processing of emotions). It was further discovered that these observable differences can actually predict the type of depressive symptoms that patients will display, enabling doctors to create individualized treatment plans that will assist their patients in receiving the support they need to recover.