People with major depressive disorder react stronger to negative memories

People with major depressive disorder react stronger to negative memories

People with major depressive disorder (MDD) feel a stronger negative emotion when remembering painful experiences than those without the disorder, a study finds.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, reports that people with major depressive disorder were able to control negative emotions at the same capacity as those unaffected, however they use different brain circuits to do so.

There were brain differences found in MDD related to processing autobiographical memories, the memories of the events, and knowledge of the individual’s life.

Cameron Carter, MD, editor of the study, said: “This study provides new insights into the changes in brain function that are present in major depression.

“It shows differences in how memory systems are engaged during emotion processing in depression and how people with the disorder must regulate these systems in order to manage their emotions.”

A stronger level of emotions

There were 29 men and women with MDD included in the study and they reported higher levels of negative emotions when brining negative memories to mind than 23 healthy comparison people.

People with MDD were able to tune these increased negative emotions down to normal levels when recalling the memory as a distant observer.

Lead author Bruce Dore of the University of Pennsylvania, USA, said: “When they were using this strategy, people with MDD showed a pattern of brain activity that was comparable to what was shown by the healthy controls, with one key difference – greater dampening of a region of posterior hippocampus that has been associated with recalling specific memory details.”

Regulating emotions

The findings suggest that despite negative memories having a stronger impact on people with MDD, it is possible that they can regulate their emotional response by making it harder to remember specific details of the experience.

Dore added: “This is generally consistent with a growing body of work suggesting that people with MDD are able to regulate their emotions when instructed to, but they may tend towards doing so in an abnormal manner, such as being more likely to use problematic strategies like distraction and rumination in daily life.”

According to Dore, this work helps the fact that people with MDD could benefit from training that focuses on identifying and effectively using appropriate strategies for emotion regulation.

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