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Study: Part of the Brain Linked to Multiple Mental Illnesses

Health Research
Last Updated Aug 21, 2020

We're learning more about mental illness every day. And what's fascinated researchers for a while now, is that half of the people who have one mental illness also experience another one at the same time. So you might have anxiety with depression - which are hard enough to manage on their own!

So rather than investigate one mental illness independently, scientists are now looking at how mental illnesses are connected. That is, what they have in common.

A landmark study from Duke University, published in Molecular Psychiatry journal, has revealed that differences in the brain's cerebellum and pons are linked to a greater risk for several forms of mental illness.

Researcher Adrienne Romer explained: "The fact that comorbidity rates are so high is kind of mind-boggling.

"Individuals with comorbidity tend to have worse outcomes in treatment, and that could be because we are not targeting the actual underlying process of what is shared among the disorders."

How was the discovery made?

The research team took more than 1,000 students and had them complete a full mental health assessment, as well as MRI scans.

They demonstrated that people with multiple forms of mental disorder have differences in the "little brain" - the cerebellum. There are also marked differences in the pons, which are the little structures that helps us make complex movements.

"We hope we could eventually use these findings to identify individuals at risk for developing multiple forms of mental disorder and determine the risk factors so that we can target those earlier on," Romer said.

What does the mental illness link mean?

The study is certainly a step in the right direction to better understanding mental illness and how they are linked. And that's bound to bring some relief to people experiencing comorbidity.

If you're experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental illness, speak with a health professional to discuss how best to manage it.

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Originally published on Jul 05, 2019

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