Each part of the brain is responsible for different tasks, many of which overlap. Research into depression has shown that certain cortical regions and activation are impaired. The extent of the impairment and how impairment affects behaviors, cognitive, and emotional processes varies, but it is clear that emotional processing and bias is impacted. Emily M. Briceno of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical Center wanted to see how facial emotion perception (FEP), a process that is essential to interpersonal relationships and social development, differs in women with and without major depression (MDD).
To examine the differences in neurological signals and cortical activation, Briceno conducted functional magnetic resonance image scans (fMRIs) on 22 women without MDD and 24 with MDD. The women were exposed to an FEP test while they were being assessed to determine exactly how their brains responded to facial emotions. Briceno discovered that the women with MDD had high levels of subcortical activity and increases in neurological activity in the frontal and parietal regions when compared to the women who did not have depression.
Further, the hyperactivation in the subcortical and cortical regions was similar to that found in previous research among people with bipolar. Taken together, these findings suggest a similar trend toward impaired emotional processing and bias toward sad and negative stimuli. Said Briceno, “The present study provides novel links between activation abnormalities in MDD and performance on an explicit facial emotion identification task with known performance decrements in MDD.”
She went on to add that specific lateral shifts in the cortical regions revealed in this study could indicate a more prominent role in the development and maintenance of depressive symptoms. Although this role and the direct relationship of this neurological laterality is unclear, this research opens the door for further exploration in this area that could lead to more tailored treatments for people who exhibit these unique emotional processing deficits.
Briceño, E.M., et al. (2013). Shifted inferior frontal laterality in women with major depressive disorder is related to emotion-processing deficits. Psychological Medicine 43.7 (2013): 1433-45. ProQuest. Web.
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