Mother’s criticism causes distinct neural activity in formerly depressed women

Not too many research articles make me say “Whoa!”

This one is a very interesting exception and it’s not even directly linked to Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Via fMRI, researchers examined the brain patterns of formerly depressed v. non-depressed women as they listened to their mothers speak. These recorded statements varied from praise to criticism.

After listening to the statements, both groups had similar verbal reactions.

But their brain patterns revealed a much different story.

As the formerly depressed women listened to the criticisms, something interesting happened.

Individuals who had never been depressed showed increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, which are brain areas involved in the cognitive control of emotion. The formerly depressed individuals did not show activity in these areas, but instead showed increased activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is responsive to potentially threatening stimuli. Previous research has shown similar activity in these neural systems among individuals who are currently depressed.

Researchers aren’t sure if this reaction is a “scar” from depression or if the brain reacted this way prior to depression.

So if Mom’s criticism is a little harder to take in the midst of a Postpartum Mood Disorder, it’s really not your fault. (And no, she’s really not out to get you)

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