How could chocolate help us understand depression? New study to examine 'brain reward'
Release Date 12 May 2015
University of Reading scientists are asking for the community's help for an important new research project which could further our understanding of the causes of depression.
The researchers require participants aged 13-21 who have been diagnosed with depression to undergo a brain study involving an MRI brain and chocolate tasting.
It's well understood that that the reward system in our brain is the catalyst for us wanting to enjoy everyday activities. One of the most common symptoms of depression is lethargy and feeling a lack of pleasure. It could be that the brains of those with depression are working differently compared to those without - the Reading researchers aim to pinpoint what they might be.
Dr Ciara Mccabe, neuroscientist based in the University of Reading's School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences and study lead author, said: "Over 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. If untreated, depression can have a disastrous effect during adolescence, and can often have lifelong effects and tragic consequences. Depression is mainly treated through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or/and prescribed anti-depression drugs, which can be very effective. However we still don't know how these drugs work, and indeed the causes of depression. To develop new treatments it's vital that we understand what impact depression has on the brain.
"This study will examine how depression affects our brain reward system, the part of the brain that makes us happy, excited and gives us that ‘get up and go'. Using an MRI scanner we will analyse the brains of people with and without depression after they have consumed chocolate, food that stimulates brain reward. Identifying these different brain mechanisms might help us to plan prevention programs and identify young people who are at risk for depression."
Volunteers will be required to spend about two hours at the University's Department of Psychology. To find out more about the project please visit the volunteer webpage