Research has shown that depression runs in families. “There is consistent evidence that depression aggregates within families, such that the odds of onset are three times greater in children with a parental history of depression, and recent approaches have sought to identify mechanisms by which this risk is transferred across generations,” said Dan Foti, of the Department of Psychology at Stony Book University in New York. “It remains to be shown, however, whether abnormal reward processing may similarly act as a mechanism for depression vulnerability.” Foti led a study that explored this dynamic based on previous evidence that has shown that non-depressed individuals respond better to rewards than depressed people. He said, “In the current study, we sought to pursue this question and examine how abnormal reward processing is associated with familial risk for depression.”
Using a sample of 81 teenage girls, Foti and his colleagues conducted experiments focusing on feedback negativity (FN) responses. After eliciting a negative mood from the teens, the researchers prompted the girls with cues that had monetary rewards attached to them. They found that the girls who were the saddest showed less preference in their responses. “The association between sadness and the FN in the current sample was stronger among high-risk adolescents, who had a parent with a history of depression, compared to low-risk adolescents, even after adjusting for differences in neuroticism.” Foti added, “It is worth noting that, although the association between state mood and the FN was significantly stronger among high-risk adolescents, FN magnitude was reduced in the high-risk group compared to the low-risk group only at the highest levels of measured sadness—and the main effect of risk was non-significant. This pattern predicts that group differences between low- and high-risk adolescents may continue to become more pronounced in response to more extreme disturbances in mood, or in response to major life stressors that exert a greater impact than laboratory-based negative inductions.” He went on to say, “These results indicate that the FN is a useful neural measure for detecting abnormal reward sensitivity in high-risk populations and, by examining the FN in conjunction with family history and personality characteristics, it may be possible to attain a better understanding of the mechanisms of depression vulnerability.”
Foti, Dan, Roman Kotov, Daniel N. Klein, and Greg Hajcak. “Abnormal Neural Sensitivity to Monetary Gains Versus Losses Among Adolescents at Risk for Depression.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39 (2011): 913-24. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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