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Study Shows Those With Depression Respond to Guilt Differently

A study on depression shows how guilt factors into the illness and how our brain processes guilt and then responds to it regarding our state of depression. Researchers at the University of Manchester found people who formerly had depression but were now in remission so they could conduct brain scans on them.

They found that activity in those brain regions that were linked to guilt and their knowledge about appropriate behaviors distinguished them from those who never battled depression, according to The Huffington Post.

One of the researchers, Dr. Roland Zahn says their research provided the first brain mechanisms that can explain Sigmund Freud’s’ classical observation about depression. Freud believed depression was illustrated from ordinary sadness by its proneness to inflated feelings of self-blame or guilt.

The study conducted brain scans on 25 people in remission from major depression and 22 control people. Researchers used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain scans as participants were told to imagine different scenarios.

Scenarios included such things as acting bossy or stingy and then they were told to share how it made them feel to act that way. The research showed that people with former depression did not have a strong “coupling” in the subgenual brain region which is the area responsible for guilt along with the lobe responsible for knowing appropriate behaviors.

Zahn noted that it was interesting that this “decoupling” only happened when people who were prone to depression felt guilty or blamed themselves and not when they felt angry or blamed others.

Zahn added this may be because the person couldn’t access details about what was inappropriate with their behavior when they felt guilty and therefore extended guilt to things they aren’t responsible for.

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