People With Depression Have Stronger Emotional Responses to Negative Memories

People with major depressive disorder (MDD) feel more negative emotions when remembering painful experiences than people without the disorder. (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
People with major depressive disorder (MDD) feel more negative emotions when remembering painful experiences than people without the disorder. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

People with major depressive disorder (MDD) feel more negative emotions when remembering painful experiences than people without the disorder, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

The study reports that people with MDD were able to control the negative emotions about as well as people unaffected by MDD, but used somewhat different brain circuits to do so.

The findings identify brain differences in MDD related to the processing of autobiographical memories, the memories of the events, and knowledge of one’s life that help us form our self-identity and guide our interactions with the world.

The personal memories used to evoke emotion in the study help tap into complex emotional situations that people with MDD experience in their daily lives.

The 29 men and women with MDD included in the study reported higher levels of negative emotions when bringing negative memories to mind than 23 healthy comparison people.

Using brain imaging, senior author Kevin Ochsner, PhD, of Columbia University, and colleagues traced the elevated emotional responses to increased activity in an emotional hub of the brain, called the amygdala, and to interactions between the amygdala and the hippocampus — a brain region important for memory.

People with MDD were able to tune these increased negative emotions down to normal levels when recalling the memory as a distant observer.

The findings suggest that although negative memories have a stronger impact on people with MDD, they may be able to regulate their emotional response by making it harder to remember specific details of the experience.

According to Dr. Doré, this kind of work is consistent with the notion that people with MDD could benefit from training that focuses on identifying and effectively using appropriate strategies for emotion regulation.

Provided by: Elsevier [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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