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Risk for depression and neural responses to fearful facial expressions of emotion

  • Stella W. Y. Chan (a1), Ray Norbury (a2), Guy M. Goodwin (a2) and Catherine J. Harmer (a2)

Abstract

Background

Depression is associated with neural abnormalities in emotional processing.

Aims

This study explored whether these abnormalities underlie risk for depression.

Method

We compared the neural responses of volunteers who were at high and low-risk for the development of depression (by virtue of high and low neuroticism scores; high-N group and low-N group respectively) during the presentation of fearful and happy faces using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Results

The high-N group demonstrated linear increases in response in the right fusiform gyrus and left middle temporal gyrus to expressions of increasing fear, whereas the low-N group demonstrated the opposite effect. The high-N group also displayed greater responses in the right amygdala, cerebellum, left middle frontal and bilateral parietal gyri to medium levels of fearful v. happy expressions.

Conclusions

Risk for depression is associated with enhanced neural responses to fearful facial expressions similar to those observed in acute depression.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Catherine J. Harmer, University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK. Email: catherine.harmer@psych.ox.ac.uk

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

G.M.G. holds research grants from Sanofi-Aventis and Servier; holds honoraria from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Eisai, Ludbeck, Sanofi-Aventis, Servier; and is a member of the advisory board of AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Lilly, Lundbeck, P1vital, Sanofi-Aventis, Servier, Wyeth. C.J.H. has acted as a consultant for Lundbeck, Merck, Sharpe & Dohme and P1vital. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes

References

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Risk for depression and neural responses to fearful facial expressions of emotion

  • Stella W. Y. Chan (a1), Ray Norbury (a2), Guy M. Goodwin (a2) and Catherine J. Harmer (a2)
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