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Depression and memory loss linked in new study

Tuesday 20th March 2018
Psychologists have discovered that patients with depression may be more likely to suffer from memory loss. Image: quickshooting via iStock
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People who suffer from depression are at increased risk of experiencing memory loss, according to a new study.

Research from scientists at Brigham Young University in Utah, US, led to the discovery that patients with depression are more likely to struggle differentiating between memories than those with no mental health issues.

Doctors recruited 98 participants for their investigation. They were required to complete a questionnaire that asked about their mood, as well as other lifestyle factors such as how much sleep they managed to get each night.

Following this, the participants were required to undertake a pattern separation test on a computer screen. They had to identify which patterns they had just been shown by the study leaders, differentiating which ones were new to them.

The results of the test showed that people who reported suffering from a low mood or depression were more likely to struggle with the pattern separation test, finding it more difficult to remember which patterns they had already seen.

As a result, this suggests some correlation between depression and memory loss, which the study authors emphasised does not mean that poor mental health causes amnesia, but rather that suffering from a mental illness can make it harder for the brain to recall some memories.

Professor Brock Kirwan of Brigham Young University's department of psychology, one of the research paper's co-authors, explained: "There are two areas in your brain where you grow new brain cells. One is the hippocampus, which is involved in memory. It turns out that growth is decreased in cases of depression."

These findings therefore emphasise the importance of patients who are suffering from depression seeking professional mental health support so that they can get the help they need and limit the effects of the illness on their day-to-day lives as best as possible.

Written by Angela Newbury

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