Paul and I are back for another MCAT Podcast Psych/Soc passage. Today, we tackle questions on depressive episodes and behavior changes.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:31] Passage 2 (Questions 6 – 9)
Between 3-10% of Americans have a major depressive episode each year. Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, and the highest incidence of first depressive symptoms is seen between the ages of 30 and 40. The second largest incidence is seen in ages 50 to 60. Depression correlates strongly with other neurological conditions, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and is also seen in higher rates among urban populations.
We’re highlighting in bold key phrases we think are important.
[04:13] Paragraph 2
A group of researchers is interested in exploring the potential of ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, in improving treatment outcomes for patients with depression after preliminary data showed that ascorbic acid supplementation with anxiety medication may improve outcomes. Patients were diagnosed with depression using the criteria found within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)-5. They then were administered a Hamilton depression rating scale (HDRS) inventory for depression, which consists of a questionnaire measuring the severity of depression by ranking certain depressive feelings and behaviors. Generally, a higher score on the HDRS indicates more severe depressive symptoms. Researchers assessed baseline measurements for depression using the HDRS, then provided the patients with 4 weeks of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common medication used to treat depression. Half the patients were randomized to supplement their SSRI regimen with ascorbic acid, while the other half supplemented their treatment with a placebo. The study results are in Table 1 below.
Table 1 The results of the Hamilton depression rating scale (HDRS) at baseline and 8 weeks after treatment with either ascorbic acid or a placebo
* indicates a statistically significant difference between baseline and post-treatment HDRS values
[10:01] Question 6
Based on the findings of the experiment, what conclusion can be drawn by the researchers?
- Patients with depression should supplement their SSRIs with ascorbic acid.
- Patients should discontinue their SSRIs and replace them with ascorbic acid.
- Patients taking SSRIs should avoid ascorbic acid.
- No conclusions can be made based on the information provided.
Based on the table, without even looking at the answers, Vitamin C doesn’t look like it’s helpful at all. And so, we can arrive at a straightforward answer.'The go to strategy on questions for any section is to read the question. Maybe rephrase it in your mind, if that helps, to figure out what they're actually asking, then make a prediction.'Click To Tweet
Ideally, you can have like one correct answer that lines up like we just saw here. Sometimes, you don’t get one where an answer that sticks out. But you can eliminate one or two wrong answers that completely go against your prediction. This can save you a lot of time going through questions especially if you notice that your timing is a little slow on your questions.
Correct Answer: C
[12:31] Question 7
In order to have confidence in their results, the researchers in this study likely ensured both diversity and parity across treatment groups for all of the following demographic differences EXCEPT:
- place of residence.
- political persuasion.
This one seems too obvious. We know women are more likely than men so that seems important. We know it mentioned the urban environment as potentially an issue. And we know that age is potentially an issue. But political persuasion seems like a very easy answer here because we haven’t read anything about political views.
Correct Answer: D
[13:32] Question 8
A drive-reduction and cognitive theorist would argue that depression is most strongly correlated with a deficiency in which component of fulfillment?
This question comes down to this drive reduction. Socialization, arousal, and self efficacy, all make sense, just in general. Depression is strongly correlated with a deficiency in socialization, self efficacy, or arousal. But socialization and self efficacy aren’t really going to be related to that drive reduction.
With arousal, we have that mental alertness. And when you have low arousal, you’re bored, sleepy, or you have low overall energy. And if you have lower arousal as well, that’s possibly correlated with depression.
Correct Answer: C
[18:03] Question 9
Abnormal functioning of which brain region(s) plays a role in the development of depression?
- Frontal lobe
- Limbic system structures
C.I and II only
D.I, II, and III
Hypothalamus is part of the limbic system. And so, II and III seem like they have to go together, and then either II or III isn’t an option alone so we’re left with D.
One of the strategies I use is to look for the Roman numeral that appears the most in the answer choices. And so here, it’s Roman numeral I, then is it right or wrong?'Having a strategy on Roman numerals, whichever one you prefer, is definitely something that every MCAT test taker should think about and try to use.'Click To Tweet
In the limbic system, fear stands out in your mind and that’s involved in depression. The hypothalamus as well deals with coordinating a ton of hormones, and some of those dealing with emotion like oxytocin. But hypothalamus is the big coordinator with the brain and getting all those hormones.
Correct Answer: D