Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Interaction between a history of depression and rumination on neural response to emotional faces

E. J. Thomasa1 c1, R. Elliotta1, S. McKiea1, D. Arnonea1, D. Downeya2, G. Juhasza1, J. F. W. Deakina1 and I. M. Andersona1

a1 Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, University of Manchester and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, UK

a2 Imaging Science and Biomedical Engineering Department, University of Manchester and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, UK

Abstract

Background Both past depressive episodes and the personality trait of depressive rumination are strong risk factors for future depression. Depression is associated with abnormal emotional processing, which may be a neurobiological marker for vulnerability to depression. A consistent picture has yet to emerge as to how a history of depression and the tendency to ruminate influence emotional processing. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between rumination, past depression and neural responses when processing face emotions.

Method The Ruminative Responses Scale (RRS) was completed by 30 remitted depressives and 37 controls who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning while viewing happy, sad, fearful and neutral faces.

Results The remitted depressives showed overall reductions in neural responses to negative emotions relative to the controls. However, in the remitted depressives, but not the controls, RRS scores were correlated with increased neural responses to negative emotions and decreased responses to happiness in limbic regions.

Conclusions Automatic emotion processing biases and rumination seem to be correlated to aspects of vulnerability to depression. However, remission from depression may be maintained by a general suppression of limbic responsiveness to negative emotion.

(Received July 27 2010)

(Revised December 10 2010)

(Accepted December 23 2010)

(Online publication February 09 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr E. J. Thomas, Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, G.704 Stopford Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT, UK. (Email: emma.j.thomas@manchester.ac.uk)

Footnotes

This study was conducted at the Neuroscience and Psychiatry Unit, University of Manchester, and the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, Manchester, UK.

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