Healthline uses multiple perspectives to illuminate findings related to neurological influences on depressive disorders
In an article written for Healthline by Bob Curley, new biomarkers for depression that may be able to be picked up using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques was discussed. The two studies cited by the article at the time of its publication had only been presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and had not been published in a peer-reviewed journal; however, experts introduced in the article found the results to be promising. The first study, which was conducted in part at Columbia University in New York, focused on discovering new biomarkers for depression in the amygdala and hippocampus, where they found that those with major depression have less fluid movement across their blood-brain-barrier, especially in these brain areas. In the second study, researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) investigated depression-related abnormalities in the connectome, which is the web of neural connections in the brain. They found that those with major depression had abnormalities in excitation and inhibition in areas involved in cognitive control, such as the amygdala.
In terms of how well this article reviewed the claims in these two studies, it was done fairly well, but a few concerns remain. Firstly, because the studies were not published in a peer-reviewed journal, it is difficult to validate the claims made by this article. However, while the article correctly describes the methods used by both studies to find their results, they tend to overgeneralize the clinical impact these results can have. Especially for the UNC study, which relies on a quite complex functional MRI (fMRI) computational model to find impaired connectivity on a microscopic scale, the applicability in a clinical sense cannot be confirmed, yet the article suggests that this method is in reach for patients with depression.
Something the article excelled at was providing multiple perspectives from both within and outside the research articles, where one expert discussed the limitations to MRI and another described an alternative imaging method, PET scans, that may also be useful. There is very little exaggeration in this article, and the scientific process is respected for needing validation, peer-reviews, and further research. The style of the article uses correct grammar, virtually no colloquialisms or slang, and the author explains scientific jargon in terms that a lay audience would understand. What the article failed to do was cite all sources and provide a link to the source in which they found the two studies. The website Healthline also included numerous advertisements throughout; however, very little sponsored content was included which is a benefit. Overall, the article did an effective job at describing the research at hand but might benefit from not overextending the findings to a clinical applicability.
This article by Bob Curley for the Health News site, Healthline, discusses recent research that used MRI to detect biomarkers and brain abnormalities that indicate major depression. This article does not explicitly cite a scientific paper from which it obtained its information, as the research was unpublished at the time of the article’s publication; however, the article cites several reputable sources (including researchers involved in the studies) to support claims made throughout. The Healthline news article accurately encompasses the findings of the study.
The author depicts the findings of the research without misleading the audience or assuming causation. Curley maintains a neutral register throughout the piece and includes various perspectives that indicate what is known and still unknown. These features contribute to a lack of bias and a high degree of clarity. Further, the author uses language that is appropriate for the target audience and ensures to define any complex terminology when necessary. Along with purposeful sectioning of the article through subtitles, this further contributes to the article being clear and concise. It should also be noted that Healthline certifies the article as “Fact Checked”. Upon examining the standards for this label, it is clear that, under the criteria, the article is reputable and well-written; however, some of the criteria, such as “potential conflicts of interest related to a study or source must be clearly indicated to the reader”, are difficult for the reader to verify for accuracy. This is a deficit of accessibility.
In regard to accessibility, the article is lacking in a few areas. Foremost, the article lacks the author’s credentials, contact information, and previously published pieces. The absence of these features makes it difficult for the reader to assess the author’s credibility and possible bias present. Additionally, the article has several advertisements besides, and throughout, the text. These advertisements can contribute to making the article difficult to read.
Videbech, P., & Ravnkilde, B. (2004). Hippocampal volume and depression: a meta-analysis of MRI studies. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(11), 1957-1966.
Su, L., Cai, Y., Xu, Y., Dutt, A., Shi, S., & Bramon, E. (2014). Cerebral metabolism in major depressive disorder: a voxel-based meta-analysis of positron emission tomography studies. BMC psychiatry, 14(1), 321.
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