APR 03, 2018 06:42 AM PDT

How Major Depression Affects Negative Memories

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a debilitating condition that goes well beyond the usual blues. It's the leading cause of disability in the United States for people aged 14 to 44. MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population in any given year.

While it can appear at any age, the median age for the first onset of MDD symptoms is 32. It's more prevalent in women than in men but regardless of gender, the condition is painful for people to cope with and research into better treatments is ongoing.

A recent study showed that patients who have MDD feel more negative emotions when asked to recall painful memories and experiences than those who do not suffer from depression. Patients with MDD were just as able to control these negative thoughts as healthy individuals, but scans showed that there are different brain circuits involved for MDD patients who are trying to control the negative feelings that crop up when they recall painful times.

The study used functional MRI imaging to see what was happening in the brain when painful memories were recalled. There were 29 men and women included in the study who suffered from MDD, and their scans were compared to the scans of 23 healthy individuals. Parts of the brain that showed activity were the amygdala and the hippocampus, both of which are involved in processing emotions and memory.

Lead author of the work Bruce Doré, PhD, of University of Pennsylvania explained how patients with MDD used strategies to tamp down on rumination of negative thoughts, stating, "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." While patients who have MDD struggle daily with remembering painful memories and processing those feelings, they have developed strategies to keep those thoughts from rendering them incapable of dealing with everyday life.

RELATED: Drug Delivery for Depression

Dr. Doré stated that this is normally how these patients get through tough times, writing, "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." While the activity between the hippocampus and the amygdala was not typical, it seems to be how patients with persistent depression have learned to cope with their illness. Previous research has shown that some video games can also help patients stop focusing on their negative memories and better cope with their disease. The video below has more information on this new finding. Check it out.

Sources: Biological Psychiatry, Reliawire

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 23, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 23, 2018
Does Marijuana Help or Hinder Stroke Recovery?
A recent study reported in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases has found that marijuana smokers have a higher rate of hospital adm...
NOV 01, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 01, 2018
Gut Bacteria can Have an Impact on Movement
One strain of gut bacteria can change how a fruit fly moves....
NOV 16, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 16, 2018
Using Light to Control Organ Development
Optogenetics combined genetic engineering with optics to create a way to control cellular behaviors with light....
NOV 19, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 19, 2018
Communal Rearing Better Prepares Mice for the Real World, Study Finds
Researchers have long understood early-life experiences to influence actions and behavior later in life for humans, but can be same be said about animals?...
JAN 08, 2019
Health & Medicine
JAN 08, 2019
Wireless 128 channel closed loop brain stimulation device
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, developed a device named "WAND," that simultaneously monitors the local field potentials and delivers electrical pulses to brain...
JAN 11, 2019
Drug Discovery
JAN 11, 2019
Histamine Improves Long-Term Memory
A recent research study found that histamine could improve people’s long-term memory which may be a prospective treatment option to alleviate symptom...
Loading Comments...