Depression and dwelling on the negative

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Thoughts that run on a negative loop really do create a pattern of brain activity. Depressed people who tend to ruminate on negative thoughts show different patterns of brain network activation when compared to healthy people.

The risk for depression is higher for people who dwell on the negative, but a new study shows that patterns of autobiographic memory may also predict or lead to depression. Some people, when asked to remember a specific event, have a tendency to recall broader themes rather than details. This is termed overgeneral memory. People with an overgeneral memory also tend to develop depression.

These types of memories are self-referential and they engage a network of brain regions called the default mode network or DMN. Scientists know that DMN activates abnormally in people with depression.

Dr. Shuqiao Yao of Central South University in Hunan, China and his colleagues took a closer look at DMN functional connectivity in untreated young adults during their first experience with major depression. They compared the results to healthy volunteers.

Depressed patients had a higher level of rumination and overgeneralized memory than the control subjects. An interesting pattern emerged. The increased connectivity in the anterior region of the brain was positively connected to rumination. The decreased connectivity in the posterior regions was negatively associated with overgeneral memory.

“As we dig deeper in brain imaging studies, we are becoming increasingly interested in the activity of rain circuits rather than single brain regions,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “Although it is a more complicated process, studying brain circuits may provide greater insight into symptoms, such as depressive ruminations.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Biological Psychiatry


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