Depression is a worldwide mental health condition that creates an economic, emotional and physical burden on the individual experiencing the illness and those around them. There are many symptoms associated with depression, including insomnia, weight loss, forgetfulness, cognitive impairment, sadness, loss of appetite, rumination, and negative affect. Therapeutic approaches such as mindfulness-based therapies have been shown to be highly effective at treating the often debilitating symptoms of depression. Pharmacological protocols including selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have also been used to treat persistent symptoms of depression. A number of studies have been conducted on both SSRI and SNRI antidepressant medications and have yielded mixed cognitive outcomes. One of the primary goals of any depression treatment is to minimize negative affect. A common strategy for achieving this is to transform a client’s cognitive and behavioral patterns. When people are severely depressed, they tend to ruminate about negative experiences and perpetuate the cycle of depression. Focusing on accessing positive memories and avoiding negative memories is one way in which a client can begin to change maladaptive cycles and work toward recovery.
Although there is abundant research on how cognitive performance is affected by antidepressants, there is less on autobiographical memory (AM) recall. To address this gap, Marietta Papadatou-Pastou of the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford in England recently examined how the SNRI reboxetine affected the AM in 24 adults with major depression. Papadatou-Pastou obtained magnetic resonance images of the participants as they performed AM tasks based on both negative and positive cues. She found that the individuals who took the reboxetine recalled positive memories more quickly than negative ones. Additionally, the antidepressant group had quicker positive AM recall than the participants who received a placebo. Papadatou-Pastou also noticed that these effects were consistent regardless of the presence of anxiety or other mood issues. She believes these findings can be significantly important for individuals who struggle with negative rumination and are resistant to therapy alone. Papadatou-Pastou added, “If such negative events are not being constantly rehearsed, they have a greater chance of being forgotten.”
Papadatou-Pastou, M., Miskowiak, K. W., Williams, J. M. G., Harmer, C. J., Reinecke, A. (2012). Acute antidepressant drug administration and autobiographical memory recall: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027969
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