The Way In Which Brain Responds To Sadness Predicts Depression Relapse
According to a new study made by researchers at the University of Toronto, the brain of a person who has been depressed and now is entering a mild state of sadness can predict whether or not that person will relapse into depression. “Part of what makes depression such a devastating disease is the high rate of relapse,” says Norman Farb, a PhD psychology student and lead author of the study. He went on saying that because people are able to maintain their recovery without relapsing into depression is very important and it cues towards the type of emotional challenges encountered in everyday life. According to what Farb said, this is a very important aspect when it comes to relapsing into depression. In order to make the study, the researchers recruited 16 people who had previously suffered from depression and they analyzed their brain responses using the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), while the patients were watching sad movie clips. After 16 months and after 9 out of the 16 patients had relapsed into depression, the researchers analyzed their brain responses again and they also checked the brain activity of a group of people who had never suffered from depression, using the fMRI.
The images showed that when the patients were watching the sad clips, the activity of the brain was different in the patients who relapsed into depression. It seems that these patients displayed more activity in the medial prefrontal gyrus, located in the front of the brain. This part of the brain is the one that makes us (and especially previously depressed people) think obsessively about the negative effects of things in our life. Furthermore, it seems that the people who did not relapse into depression showed a greater activity in the back part of the brain. This particular part of the brain is responsible for our responses when it comes to stronger feelings of acceptance and non-judgment of experience. Moreover, according to Farb, this study comes to support the idea that people who have formerly suffered from depression respond differently to emotional challenges and that can predict the way in which they will be feeling in the future. He went on saying that for a person who has suffered from depression may be really dangerous if the brain reacts with the front part of the brain, the one responsible with the negative thoughts, because that can make them relapse into depression and it can be even more difficult than the first time. What Farb said was that people who are at risk should rather try to accept and notice their feeling instead of explaining and analyzing them. The bottom line of the study is that people who have a history of depression should take more care of themselves and not let anything harm them too deeply when it comes to their feelings, in order to lead a healthy life, without the fear of relapsing in depression over and over again.11