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Depressed People Process Personal Information Differently

Depressed People Process Personal Information DifferentlyA new study has found that people experiencing a depressive episode process information about themselves differently than people who are not depressed.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers at the University of Liverpool scanned the brains of people in major depressive episodes and those who weren’t. The task subjects were given while in the fMRI machine was to choose adjectives to describe themselves or the British Queen — a figure significantly removed from their daily lives that all but one of the participants were familiar with.

“We found that participants who were experiencing depressed mood chose significantly fewer positive words and more negative and neutral words to describe themselves, in comparison to participants who were not depressed,” said Professor Peter Kinderman, head of the university’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society.

“That’s not too surprising, but the brain scans also revealed significantly greater blood oxygen levels in the medial superior frontal cortex — the area associated with processing self-related information — when the depressed participants were making judgments about themselves.”

The research leads the way for further studies into the psychological and neural processes that accompany depressed mood, he continued.

“Understanding more about how people evaluate themselves when they are depressed and how neural processes are involved could lead to improved understanding and care,” he said.

“This study explored ways to consolidate some of the differences between medical and psychological models of depression,” added Dr. May Sarsam, from the Mersey Care NHS Trust.

“It showed that brain activity only differed when depressed people thought about themselves, not when they thought about the Queen or when they made other types of judgments, which fits very well with the current psychological theory.”

“Thought and neurochemistry should be considered as equally important in our understanding of mental health difficulties such as depression,” she added.

The research, in collaboration with the Mersey Care NHS Trust and the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Lancaster, was published in PLOS One.

Source: University of Liverpool


Abstract of Brain photo by shutterstock.

Depressed People Process Personal Information Differently

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2015). Depressed People Process Personal Information Differently. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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