B3860 - Identifying markers for brain signatures of adolescent depression and depression risk - 13/09/2021

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Heather Whalley | University of Edinburgh
Miss Amelia Edmonson-Stait, Dr Alex Kwong
Title of project: 
Identifying markers for brain signatures of adolescent depression and depression risk
Proposal summary: 

We currently have another proposal (B3421) investigating the brain signatures of adolescent depression and depression risk. In order to fully examine this project, we are running some initial analysis to define the most robust markers of depression across adolescence. From preliminary analysis and other research, we have found that trajectories of depressive symptoms may be robust markers for some brain signatures. Additionally, these trajectories could mediate the relationship between early risk factors and later brain signatures. Therefore, we are running additional analysis on the trajectories to validate these findings and we will examine them with the following methods. Please note, we already have access to the data, this is a student project using that data.

Depression can take on the shape of different trajectories. For some individuals symptoms of depression may appear in childhood and persist into adulthood, whereas for others symptoms may not appear until adolescence or later in life and may either persist or diminish with time. It remains unclear what risk factors influence these different trajectories. One potential risk factor of interest is inflammation as this has been shown to associate with depression, as well as brain structure and function.
Unlike traditional cross-sectional studies analysing trajectories of depression allows investigation of how individuals change over time. We aim to investigate how inflammation in childhood may influence depression trajectories across development. This is a time period of critical brain development in which symptoms of depression typically first occur. First, we will test for associations between markers of inflammation in childhood with depression trajectories using latent growth curve modelling. Secondly, we will test for potential causality of these associations using Mendelian randomisation.
This will aid our understanding of how early life biomarkers, such as inflammation, influence trajectories of depression, which in turn may be related to altered brain development. These findings will further develop the project (B3421) investigating the causes and timings of brain changes related to depression. We will eventually link these trajectories to the brain related changes and examine how trajectories mediate the relationship between early biomarkers and later brain related changes.

Impact of research: 
Shed light on biological mechanisms underpinning depression
Date proposal received: 
Saturday, 28 August, 2021
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 13 September, 2021
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition