Megan M. Hare, Ph.D.

Fellow In Child & Adolescent Depression

Project Details


Charles Zeanah, M.D.
Kathryn Humphreys, Ph.D., Ed.M.


Tulane University


Early Origins of Depression: Examining Newborn Reward Circuits and Caregiving Influences


Depression is a widespread health problem, impacting millions of people each year. While genetics play a role in the development of depression, recent studies emphasize the importance of early caregiving in the onset of depression. Specifically, the quality of care a child receives can impact their emotions and sensitivity to reward. When people are depressed, they might not find joy in things they used to enjoy, like hobbies or activities. This change in how we respond to rewarding experiences is a key part of depression. Recent research shows that even young children can experience changes in how their brains process rewards, increasing the risk of depression. By studying the brain circuits involved in processing rewards and understanding how they work differently in depression, we can gain important insights into the causes of depression. Further, depression can emerge as early as the preschool years, underscoring infancy as an important period for identifying early neurobiological markers of depression.