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Clues found to recurrent depression

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Women who have had repeated depressive episodes tend to pay more attention to negative emotional information than those who have not experienced major depression. When shown negative images during a brain scan, the emotional centers of these women’s brains also “light up” to a greater extent.

These findings, reported by Kimberly Albert, Ph.D., Paul Newhouse, M.D., and colleagues this month in the Journal of Affective Disorders, suggest that “cognitive bias,” especially the tendency for perception to be focused on negative information, is a trait characteristic of depression vulnerability rather than a consequence of a negative mood.

If confirmed by further study, these differences in the activity of and functional connections between parts of the brain involved in emotion and attention may represent neurobiological markers of the risk for recurrence of depressive episodes.

They also may identify women who could benefit from cognitive training, treatment approaches that can help patients put down new, more positive pathways in their brains, the researchers concluded.

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