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Children as young as three years old can show signs of depression, according to new research.


A new study has found that some children as young as three or four years old can respond similarly to depressed adults in tests designed to find symptoms of the condition.


The Washington University School of Medicine measured the brain waves of 84 children and published their findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.



Testing the theory using a video game, the results showed that depressed children wouldn’t respond to rewards in the same way as other children.


Given the option between two doors – one which would earn them points and another which would cause them to lose points – some children did not react the same to others when they successfully identified the winning door.


"The EEG results showed that their brains did not react as robustly to the pleasurable event of choosing the correct door on the screen," one of the study’s authors, Dr Andrew C. Belden said of the findings.



"It was not that their brains somehow overreacted to making the wrong choice. The brains of both depressed and non-depressed children reacted the same way to making the wrong choice.


“The differences we observed were specific to the reward response."


The study brought awareness to some of the key signs of childhood depression including “decreased ability to enjoy activities and play”.



Dr Belden also told parents to be aware of their child’s sleeping and eating patterns.


"Kids who feel excessively guilty about wrongdoing and those who experience changes in sleep and appetite also may be at risk.


“If they're persistently sad, irritable, or less motivated, those are markers that may indicate depression, even in kids as young as 3 or 4, and we would recommend that parents get them evaluated.”



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