The Structural and Functional Brain Network in Early- and Later-Onset Depressive Disorder

Faye Womer, M.D.

Project Summary:

Depression is a common mental illness among all ages. It affected 19 million U.S. adults and adolescents in 2015. Worldwide, it affects approximately 350 million people. Despite improved recognition and treatment of depression, it continues to cause significant suffering and burden for individuals, their families, and society.


Depression cost the U.S. economy an estimated $210 billion in 2010. It is a major risk factor for suicide among all ages. Suicide rates have increased over the past decades, and suicide is now a leading cause of death among those of 10 to 64 years of age. Further advances in diagnosis and treatment of depression are needed. However, scientists are hindered in pursuit of such advances due to unanswered questions about how depression works in the brain.


What we do know:

1.   There are brain differences between those with depression and those without.

2.    Brain networks are important in depression.

3.   Brain changes may differ based on the age when depression first began.


Questions to be answered:

1.   What is the brain network like in depression?

2.   Is early-onset depression different than later-onset depression?

Answering these questions could provide important information for improving diagnosis and treatment in depression.

The propose study aims to address these questions by looking at the structural and functional brain network in early- and later-onset depression using recently developed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques based on graph theory.