No one wants their child to suffer, physically or mentally. So, if there was a relatively easy test that could predict your child's risk of developing depression, wouldn't you want to use it?
Depression is very difficult to deal with and affects all areas of one's life. It's the leading cause of disability in the United States, in adults ages 15 to 44, as it can make it difficult to work and maintain relationships. A person suffering from depression experiences intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, and negativity. And those feelings don't just go away; they stay with the person.
One in ten Americans will be affected by depression at one point in their lives, and it isn't something any parent wants for their child, especially if they themselves suffer from this illness.
A new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that a relatively simple test can predict if a child has a higher risk of developing depression. The test mainly consists of looking at a child's pupil responses when asked to look at a variety of faces.
Our pupils react to many things, including lightness and darkness, if we're intoxicated or excited, various neurological conditions, and so on. The pupil's movements are incredibly precise.
Scientists can detect and measure things like sleepiness, emotional states, sexual interests, race biases, moral judgments, schizophrenia, memory, attention, and even autism just from the dilation of our pupils.
Pupillometry is the science of using measurements of the pupil to make psychological predictions and gather predictive intelligence. Science has discovered that the harder you're working to solve a problem, the more dilated your pupils become. Even nurses have been able to read the pupils of paralyzed patients to determine if their intention is a "yes" or "no" in answering important questions.
Brandon Gibb, professor of psychology at Binghamton University and director of the Mood Disorder Institute and Center for Affective Science, found that how a child's pupils dilate in response to seeing an emotional image can predict his or her risk of depression.
In the study, 47 mother-child pairs were recruited. All the mothers had a history of major depressive disorder (MDD). The children were asked to view a variety of faces that were either sad, angry, or happy.
"The current findings suggest that physiological reactivity to sad stimuli, assessed using Pupillometry, serves as a potential biomarker of depression risk among children of depressed mothers," said KL Burkhouse, one of the study's authors.
As the children looked at the faces, the dilation of their pupils were measured. The researches followed up with the children and interviewed them about their current mental state every six months over a two year period.
This let the researchers know which children showed signs of depression and how long it took to develop it.
"We think that this line of research could eventually lead to universal screenings in pediatricians' offices to assess future risk of depression in kids," said Gibb.
If tests like these can predict future depression in children, hopefully they can also provide preventative treatments for this devastating illness.