Activity in brain networks related to features of depression

Depressed individuals with a tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts, i.e. to repeatedly think about particular negative thoughts or memories, show different patterns of brain network activation compared to healthy individuals, report scientists of a new study in Biological Psychiatry.

The risk for depression is increased in individuals with a tendency towards negative ruminations, but patterns of autobiographic memory also may be predictive of depression.

When asked to recall specific events, some individuals have a tendency to recall broader categories of events instead of specific events. This is termed overgeneral memory and, like those who tend to ruminate, these individuals also have a higher risk of developing depression.

These self-referential activities engage a network of brain regions called the default mode network, or DMN. Prior studies using imaging techniques have already shown that the DMN activates abnormally in individuals with depression, but the relationship between DMN activity and depressive ruminations was not clear.

In this new report, Dr. Shuqiao Yao of Central South University in Hunan, China and colleagues evaluated DMN functional connectivity in untreated young adults experiencing their first episode of and healthy volunteers. Each participant underwent a brain scan and completed tests to measure their levels of rumination and overgeneral memory.

As expected, the exhibited higher levels of rumination and overgeneral memory than did the control subjects. They also observed increased functional connectivity in the anterior medial cortex regions and decreased in the posterior medial cortex regions in depressed patients compared with control subjects.

Among the depressed subjects, an interesting pattern of dissociation emerged. The increased connectivity in anterior regions was positively associated with rumination, while the decreased connectivity in posterior regions was negatively associated with overgeneral memory.

Dr. Yao commented on the importance of these findings: "In the future, resting-state network activity in the brain will provide useful models for investigating network features of cognitive dysfunction in psychopathology."

"As we dig deeper in brain imaging studies, we are becoming increasingly interested in the activity of brain circuits rather than single ," said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of . "Although it is a more complicated process, studying brain circuits may provide greater insight into symptoms, such as depressive ruminations. The current study nicely illustrates how altered activity at different sites within a brain network may be related to different features of depression."

More information: The article is "Evidence of a Dissociation Pattern in Resting-State Default Mode Network Connectivity in First-Episode, Treatment-Naive Major Depression Patients" by Xueling Zhu, Xiang Wang, Jin Xiao, Jian Liao, Mingtian Zhong, Wei Wang, and Shuqiao Yao (doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.10.035). The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 71, Issue 7 (April 1, 2012).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Good ruminations or bad ruminations in the depressed brain?

Aug 22, 2011

All of us, at times, ruminate or brood on a problem in order to make the best possible decision in a complex situation. But sometimes, rumination becomes unproductive or even detrimental to making good life choices. Such ...

Depressed? Crossed wires in the brain

Dec 08, 2011

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a severely debilitating illness characterized by sadness and an inability to cope. Not only does it affect a person's ability to concentrate and make decisions, it also alters their ability ...

Brain 'hyperconnectivity' linked to depression

Feb 23, 2012

People with depression have hyperactive brain activity, according to a study published online Tuesday that offers new insight into the brain dysfunction that causes depression.

Recommended for you

Toddlers copy their peers to fit in, but apes don't

10 hours ago

From the playground to the board room, people often follow, or conform, to the behavior of those around them as a way of fitting in. New research shows that this behavioral conformity appears early in human ...

Sadness lasts longer than other emotions

11 hours ago

Why is it that you can feel sad up to 240 times longer than you do feeling ashamed, surprised, irritated or even bored? It's because sadness often goes hand in hand with events of greater impact such as death ...

Can parents make their kids smarter?

12 hours ago

Reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

theskepticalpsychic
not rated yet Apr 03, 2012
In other words, think it through.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.