Treatment & Research for Adolescent Depression
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mental disorders of adolescents affecting 15% by age 18, with females suffering the illness twice as often as males. It is associated with other emotional conditions, social and academic impairment, substance abuse, and high risk of suicide, which is the third-leading cause of death in that age group. Adolescent MDD is also a strong predictor of recurrence of MDD in adulthood.
Ample research has demonstrated the effectiveness of medication used to treat adult MDD, unfortunately, the same level of research about the treatment of children and adolescents with MDD has not been done. Over the past 2 years, regulatory agencies in the United States have issued advisories regarding the use of antidepressants in the treatment of adolescents with MDD due to rare reports of increased suicidal thinking.
In spite of its serious public health significance, social and economic costs, and limited existing therapeutic options, adolescent MDD has been subject to relatively little biological research. Dr. Vilma Gabbay and her research team at the Institute for Anxiety and Mood Disorders at the NYU Child Study Center are currently conducting research on adolescent MDD focusing on alternative therapeutic options and identifying neurobiological markers to guide the advancement of our understanding of the underlying causes of depression and to help develop prevention and treatment efforts in this age group.
One of the treatment studies currently underway at the Institute examines the therapeutic benefits of a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3FA) derived from fish oil in the treatment of adolescent MDD. Epidemiological and neurobiological evidence suggests that omega-3FA play a role in MDD. Studies have reported links between fish consumption and the prevalence of MDD worldwide as well as decreased risk of suicide. Possible mechanisms linking omega-3FA to MDD are the effects on brain chemicals including the serotonin and dopamine, immune system problems, and interaction with brain cells in specific brain regions which have been implicated in MDD. Evidence also suggests benefits for omega-3FA in childhood and adult depression. Sponsored by the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, this 10-week treatment study is currently recruiting teenagers ages 12-19 with major depression.
This fall, Dr. Gabbay and her team will also begin recruitment efforts for a new NIH-funded advanced brain imaging study with depressed adolescents who have a family member with MDD and healthy comparisons. This study will use a brain scan technique that does not involve radiation, to provide information about brain function and chemistry in specific brain regions that have been implicated in adolescent depression.
For information regarding participation in the fish oil treatment and brain imaging studies available for adolescents with MDD, contact the NYU Child Study Center at (212) 263-2494. The NYU Child Study Center is dedicated to advancing the field of mental health for children and their families through evidence-based practice, science, and education. For more information on the NYU Child Study Center, please visit www.AboutOurKids.org.#