These are two major health conditions that appear to share a robust link, according to a new study. Published in the magazine Nature Mental Health (Source 1), a study supports the link between depression and multiple sclerosis, this inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
According to current data put forward by researchers, people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (USA) were able to compare the brain sites affected by MS lesions with those associated with depression.
The research team relied here on a database of 281 MS patients, for whom clinical and imaging data were available. An automated lesion detection and description protocol allowed researchers to locate lesions with relative ease.
The results show that “the locations of MS lesions associated with depression are connected to a specific brain circuitwith a peak in the ventral midbrain”, a region located at the top of the brainstem, in the heart of the brain, detail the researchers. They believe that these results may be useful for the identification of new pharmacological therapeutic targetsbut also to help guide brain stimulation protocols used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The goal being to limit this excess risk of depression in sclerotic patients, while treating their autoimmune disease.
“The more we know about lesion connectivity that cause symptoms, the better our ability to target an ideal stimulation site for these symptoms”, said Dr. Shan Siddiqi, first author of the study, in a press release (Source 2). “We have already shown the success of targeting our depression circuit in other patients. Now that we have shown that the circuit can be applied to depression in MS, we should be able to find a treatment target for these patients as well.“, he added.