Brain Reaction to Guilt May Be Key to Depression, Study Finds

Monday, 04 Jun 2012 05:00 PM

 

Share:
A    A   |
   Email Us   |
   Print   |
   Forward Article  |
  Copy Shortlink

People with a history of depression respond differently than others to feeling guilty, brain scans show, a finding that may begin to explain how the emotions are processed by the brain.

Patients who had recovered from depression were more likely to show activation in areas of the brain associated with guilt, even when primed with scenarios where someone else was at fault, according to a study released today by the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Sigmund Freud had proposed that excessive guilt was part of depression a century ago. Today’s study may point to how the brain experiences guilt and depression, said Roland Zahn, a study author and senior lecturer in psychology and psychiatry at the University of Manchester in the U.K. Though the current study doesn’t demonstrate whether the increased sensitivity to guilt causes depression, the imaging may lead to new ways of diagnosing vulnerability to the mood disorder.

“It’s a very subtle change,” Zahn said. “These people are more prone to overgeneralize guilt, to feel guilty for everything. But something else must trigger depression, because when we saw them, they were quite well. Something must interact with this.”

Perhaps, if these people were to lose their jobs or be dumped by a romantic partner, they would be more likely to blame themselves, and less likely to take into account extenuating circumstances, Zahn said.

“These people may lose hope and think, ‘Maybe I’m a total failure, I can’t do anything right,’” Zahn said.

Measuring Guilt

The researchers recruited 22 healthy people with no family history of depression and 25 people who had previously had a major depressive episode. They were then asked to imagine they had behaved poorly toward their best friend, or that their best friend had acted badly toward them. The people who had previously been depressed were less able to coordinate brain regions to become indignant when they were wronged.

Because of the past depression, it’s not clear whether the abnormal activation was a “scar” from depression, or the vulnerability itself, said Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta, who wasn’t involved in the research. The areas implicated are the same ones she’s targeted in her treatment of depression with deep brain stimulation, she said.

“Depressed people do get into this spin cycle, and I think the concept is really fantastic, because it’s not enough to just feel bad,” Mayberg said. “You don’t blame yourself when you have cancer. But here, the areas of your brain that don’t work right cause you to blame yourself.”

Seeking Treatments

People who have previously been depressed are more likely to experience another depressive episode, Zahn said. Knowing how the brain is vulnerable may help researchers target treatments, whether through therapy or new kinds of medication.

The next step is to see if imaging can predict whether someone will have another episode of depression within the year, Zahn said. He and his colleagues are also considering ways of seeing if the unusual activation of the anterior temporal lobe, the area affected, can be unlearned, he said.

Mayberg also suggested recruiting people with family histories of depression who haven’t yet gotten sick to see if they show similar patterns.

Today’s study was funded by the University of Manchester and the Wellcome Trust, among others.

 

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Share:
   Email Us   |
   Print   |
   Forward Article  |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

US Wins More Guilty Pleas in First Counterfeit Apps Case

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 18:45 PM

The final defendants in what the U.S. government called its first prosecution of a counterfeit apps case have pleaded gu . . .

Heartbleed Fix Could Drastically Slow Internet

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 10:15 AM

Repairing the Heartbleed virus could cripple the Internet as the 500,000 affected websites simultaneously scramble to ch . . .

Conjoined Boys Separated at Chest to Exit Hospital

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 16:27 PM

The conditions of conjoined twins separated last summer have steadily improved, and officials say they'll be released th . . .

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved