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Memory Recall and Depression Risk

Those in remission and at familial risk studied

Left amygdala hyperactivity during negative autobiographical memory recall is a marker of depression, according to a study involving 160 individuals.

Participants included 60 healthy controls, 45 unmedicated individuals with current depression, 25 unmedicated individuals whose depression was in remission, and 30 individuals with hereditary risk of developing depression. Each had an MRI while recalling autobiographical memories in response to cue words.

Among the results:

• During positive recall, those with depression had significantly less left amygdala activity and less connectivity with regions of the salience network than did the other groups.

• During negative recall, controls had significantly less left amygdala activity compared with others. Those with depression showed more amygdala connectivity with the salience network.

• In those with depression, left amygdala activity during positive recall correlated significantly with depression severity and percent of positive specific memories recalled.

The authors concluded that those in remission and those with hereditary risk might benefit from treatments that target amygdala hypoactivity and blunted salience during positive autobiographical recall.

Citation: Young K, Siegle G, Bodurka J, Drevets W. Amygdala activity during autobiographical memory recall in depressed and vulnerable individuals: Association with symptom severity and autobiographical overgenerality. Am J Psychiatry. 2016;173(1):78-89.