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Depressed People Can't Hold Onto Happiness
Date:12/21/2009

Novel study found they could feel good, just couldn't sustain positive feelings

MONDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- It's not that depressed people can't feel good, it's that they can't hang on to that feeling, a new study claims.

The novel notion upends previous beliefs that depressed people don't even start out with positive emotions, and that they have no or little response in the areas of the brain related to good feelings.

"This tells us that a consideration of positive emotion is as important, if not more important, in understanding depression," said Richard Davidson, senior author of a study appearing online Dec. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It further suggests that we may be able to develop cognitive strategies that aren't so much focused on minimizing negative emotion but rather enhancing and sustaining positive emotion," continued Davidson, who is director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Previous knowledge agreed that patients who have anhedonia [inability to experience pleasure, a component of depression] have a decreased ability to experience positive emotions," added Eva E. Redei, the David Lawrence Stein professor of psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. "The novelty of this finding is that it's not that they cannot experience positive emotions, but that they can't hang on to it."

The findings may also affect which medications are used for different cases of depression, namely that medications that affect the dopamine or reward system of the brain may be effective in this type of disorder.

"Although depression is considered a mood disorder, we really don't know how mood is disordered in depression," said Davidson. "One of the ignored areas in depression is the possibility that one of the major abnormalities in depression is n
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