A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan’s Medical School and Depression Center has now proved that the thinking ability of those affected by depression or bipolar disorder does indeed get fuzzy.

As a result, the sufferers are unable to concentrate on anything and complain of their thinking process getting slowed down.

The researchers came to these conclusions after a series of experiments and tests carried out on 612 women, more than two third of whom had experienced either major depression or bipolar disorder. They were given some simple tests and also subject to brain scans.

The test sought rapid reaction from respondents when certain letters flashed briefly on a screen, amid a random sequence of other letters.

Those diagnosed with either of the two mental disorders were seen to be significantly slower than those without any such health conditions on this standard test of cognitive control.

When powerful brain scanners were used to look at differences in the brain activity of those with such conditions, they were stupefied to see that the ‘fuzzy effect’ is real and rooted in brain activity.

So much so that it even showed up in advanced brain scans. Areas of the brain that help control “executive function” – activities such as working memory, problem solving and reasoning showed different levels of activity in affected people.

“In all, we show a shared cognitive dysfunction in women with mood disorders, which were pronounced in the cognitive control tests and more nuanced in scans,” said Kelly Ryan, a neuropsychologist and a lead author of the study.

“These findings support the idea of seeing mood disorders dimensionally, as a continuum of function to dysfunction across illnesses that are more alike than distinct. Traditionally in psychiatry we look at a specific diagnosis, or category. But the neurobiology is not categorical – we’re not finding huge differences between what clinicians see as categories of disease. This raises questions about traditional diagnoses.”

These findings, assert the researchers who were a part of this study, could change the way both doctors and patients think about, diagnose and treat these conditions.

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