Depression ‘alters visual information’

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A new study has found that the processing of visual information is altered in people suffering from depression.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland investigated the effects of depression on visual perception in a study and their findings confirmed that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon experts believe is most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex.

For their study, the team compared the processing of visual information by patients with depression and a control group using two visuals tests which prompted them to compare the brightness and contrast of simple patterns.

“What came as a surprise was that depressed patients perceived the contrast of the images shown differently from non-depressed individuals,” said Academy of Finland Research Fellow Viljami Salmela.

The findings showed that those suffering from the mood disorder perceived the visual illusion presented in the patterns as weaker and the contrast as somewhat stronger than those in the control group.

“The contrast was suppressed by roughly 20 per cent among non-depressed subjects, while the corresponding figure for depressed patients was roughly 5 per cent,” Salmela explained.

The team insist their study is important in helping identify changes in brain function underlying mental disorders, and will subsequently boost the understanding of the onset of these disorders and how to develop effective therapies for them.

“However, depression cannot be identified by testing visual perception, since the observed differences are small and manifested specifically when comparing groups,” Salmela clarified.

The study was published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

Cover-Media via Reuters

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