Some of the most common symptoms of depressed mood include confusion, hopelessness, fatigue, sadness, sleep problems, and changes in appetite. In an attempt to better understand the fluctuations that occur in symptoms of depressed mood, researchers have used a method known as ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Most of the existing data gathered from EMAs has been via hand written, first person pen and paper diary entries. Although this method can be valuable, it allows for human error and oversight in mood and symptoms fluctuation.
To minimize any error in recording, Jinhyuk Kim of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Tokyo in Japan recently conducted a study depressed mood using electronic EMA. Kim enlisted 85 participants ranging from adolescence to adulthood and equipped them with computerized EMA recorders that they wore on their wrists. The recorders captured not only manually entered mood assessments, but also the level of locomotor activity that the participants engaged in during the study period.
Using the data collected from the recorders, Kim found a strong association between depressed mood and locomotor patterns. Specifically, Kim noticed that increases in depressed mood, anxiety and fatigue were directly associated with decreases in locomotor activity and intermittent periods of low activity. These findings provide a very accurate and real-time look into the way in which mood affects activity. Because many people with depressed mood experience fatigue, that symptom may be a contributing factor to the lower levels of locomotor activity.
Kim did not extend the basis of this study to include exploration into the mechanisms that caused the associations, but believes future work should address those relationships. Until that time, this study shows that depressed mood not only affects activity levels directly in proportion to symptom level, but also regardless of age. All of the participants, despite age, gender, or other demographic differences, exhibited similar trends related to activity and symptoms.
This suggests that depressed mood is a robust indicator of psychophysiological outcomes. “In addition,” said Kim, “Our findings on the concurrent changes in depressive mood and locomotor activity may contribute to the continuous estimation of changes in depressive mood and early detection of depressive disorders.”
Kim, J., Nakamura, T., Kikuchi, H., Sasaki, T., Yamamoto, Y. (2013). Co-variation of depressive mood and locomotor dynamics evaluated by ecological momentary assessment in healthy humans. PLoS ONE 8(9): e74979. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074979
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