The primary aim of this CHADS project is to investigate changes brain activation networks in very young depressed children in response to a novel emotion development treatment. The applicants propose to conduct functional neuroimaging both pre and post treatment in 24 depressed preschoolers participating in an ongoing NIMH funded developmental therapy treatment study. Adding to this ongoing NIMH treatment study provides an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the effects of an emotion development treatment on brain neurocircuitry at an early stage of life when the brain is known to be more sensitive to change. To investigate whether an early intervention focused on emotional development leads to changes in brain neurocircuitry we propose to use functional magnetic resonance imaging while preschoolers view emotion faces. Notably, structural changes in brain have already been detected in a small sub-sample of depressed preschoolers by
our research group pointing to the importance of investigations of brain structure and function at this early stage of development. Imaging will be done prior to and after an active developmental treatment or an educational control condition. Differences in brain activity in adults and children with depression have already been established. We hypothesize that depressed preschoolers who undergo the 14-week active emotion development treatment will show greater changes in brain activation than those who undergo a control condition. In addition, as an exploratory goal, we will be able to examine whether the degree of brain activation prior to treatment predicts response to treatment, potentially informing the selection of the most effective treatment for different children.
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