In a new study, researchers found examined the effects of depression on visual perception.
They confirmed that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Helsinki.
In the study, the processing of visual information by patients with depression was compared to that of a control group by utilizing two visual tests.
In the perception tests, the study participants compared 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.
Patients suffering from depression perceived the visual illusion presented in the patterns as weaker and, consequently, the contrast as somewhat stronger, than those who had not been diagnosed with depression.
The contrast was suppressed by roughly 20% among non-depressed people, while the corresponding figure for depressed patients was roughly 5%.
Identifying the changes in brain function underlying mental disorders is important in order to increase understanding of the onset of these disorders and of how to develop effective therapies for them.
This is why the researchers consider it necessary to carry out further research on altered processing of visual information by the brain caused by depression.
The team says perception tests could, for example, serve as an additional tool when assessing the effect of various therapies as the treatment progresses.
However, depression cannot be identified by testing visual perception, since the observed differences are small and manifested specifically when comparing groups.
The study is published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. One author of the study is Academy of Finland Research Fellow Viljami Salmela.
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