Frodl, T. et al. (2010)
Childhood Stress, Serotonin Transporter Gene and Brain Structures in Major Depression
Neuropsychopharmacology 35, 1383-1390


Luby, J.L. (2010)
Preschool Depression: The Importance of Identification of Depression Early in Development
Current Directions in Psychological Science 19(2), 91-95

  • These two papers both concern childhood depression; the first describes how genetic variation and environments interact to affect the risk of developing depression in childhood, and the second documents an increase in depression in early childhood and suggests some treatments.
  • The study by Frodl and co-workers compared hospital in-patients with major depression with healthy controls, and found that those who had two copies of one variant of the serotonin transporter gene and who reported stress in early childhood were more likely to develop depression.
  • The hippocampus – a brain region that is important in memory – was smaller in patients with depression who had both genetic and environmental risk factors for it than in those with none or only one. 
  • Depressed patients with this genetic risk factor were likely to respond worse to anti-depressants than those without it.
  • The symptoms of clinical depression in pre-school children – principally an inability to initiate and enjoy appropriate play – have only recently been described, and there is some evidence that the condition is increasing.
  • Identifying and treating depression in young children is seen as particularly important as their brain chemistry is still very easily changeable. Although neither anti-depressants nor cognitive behavioural therapy is considered appropriate for this age group, age-appropriate therapies, often involving parents, are being developed.