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A mother's criticism causes distinctive neural activity among formerly depressed
Date:3/31/2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 31, 2009 Formerly depressed women show patterns of brain activity when they are criticized by their mothers that are distinctly different from the patterns shown by never depressed controls, according to a new study from Harvard University. The participants reported being completely well and fully recovered, yet their neural activity resembled that which has been observed in depressed individuals in other studies.

The study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, was led by Jill M. Hooley, professor of psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. Hooley's co-authors were Holly Parker, also of Harvard, and Staci Gruber, Julien Guillaumot, Jadwiga Rogowska and Deborah Yurgelun-Todd of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

"We found that even though our formerly depressed participants were fully well, had no symptoms, and felt fine, different things were happening in their brains when they were exposed to personal criticism," says Hooley. "What's interesting to us about these findings is that although these women were fully recovered, at the level of the brain they were not back to normal."

The study included 23 female participants, 12 of whom had no history of depression or any other mental illness and 11 of whom had previously experienced one or more depressive episodes, but had reported no symptoms for an average of 20 months. To an observer, both the control group and the formerly depressed appeared completely healthy.

While inside an fMRI scanner, the participants listened to 30-second audio recordings of remarks from their mother. Some comments were praising, some were critical and others were neutral in content. The comments were previously recorded over the telephone with the permission of the mothers. The participants were also asked to rate their mood on a scale from one to five after hearing the different kinds of remarks.


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Contact: Amy Lavoie
amy_lavoie@harvard.edu
617-496-9982
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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