ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) — Brain scientists have moved a step closer to understanding why some people may be more prone to depression than others.
Dr Roland Zahn, a clinical neuroscientist in The University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, and his colleagues have identified how the brain links knowledge about social behaviour with moral sentiments, such as pride and guilt.
The study, carried out at the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US with Dr Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section, and Dr Jorge Moll, now at the LABS-D'Or Center for Neuroscience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 29 healthy individuals while they considered certain social behaviours.
“The most distinctive feature of depressive disorders is an exaggerated negative attitude to oneself, which is typically accompanied by feelings of guilt,” he said.
“Now that we understand how the brains of healthy individuals respond to feelings of guilt, we hope to be able to better understand why and where there are differences in brain activity in people suffering from, or prone to, depression.
“The brain region we have identified to be associated with proneness to guilt has been shown to be abnormally active in patients with severe depression in several previous studies, but until now its involvement in guilt had been unknown."