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Report: Teen depression may shrink part of brain

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Teenagers with depression may have abnormal brain structure, Canadian researchers say in a new report.

Imaging studies show that adolescents with major depression tend to have a small hippocampus. This is a part of the brain associated with motivation, emotion and memory formation.

The study, done by a team at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and the National Research Council of Canada, fits in with others that suggest depression can shrink the hippocampus.

Major stress and trauma -- both depression triggers -- can also cause the shrinkage.

Researchers Frank MacMaster and Vivek Kusumakar studied 34 teens aged 13 to 18 years old, half of whom had major depressive disorder.

They used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the volume of their left and right hippocampuses.

The hippocampuses of patients with depression were, on average, 17 percent smaller than those of the healthy volunteers, MacMaster and Kusumakar reported.

"To our knowledge this is the first published report regarding hippocampal volume in youths with early onset depression compared to healthy controls," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the online journal BioMedCentral medicine.

Other recent studies have suggested that antidepressant drugs can restore depleted brain cells.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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