The neural correlates of cognition in depression

Recent data suggest that 1.5 million Canadians, or 12 per cent of the population, will experience an episode of major depression at some point in their lives. For many, depression often becomes a chronic illness, with recurrent episodes. Cognitive neuroscience researchers are currently examining networks in the brain that are involved in depression, in the hope of developing better treatments and therapies for this devastating disease. MSFHR previously funded Fern Jaspers-Fayer for her Master’s research on the electrical brain activity changes associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). For her PhD work, Jaspers-Fayer is continuing her studies in this area. She has studied the timing and location of electrical brain signals from electroencephalograms (EEGs) that were recorded from people with symptoms of depression while they completed a number of cognitive tests. She found that although everyone pays more attention to negative events than positive ones, people with low mood will go on to ruminate about these events. This contemplation, which may become persistent and brooding, then affects how they behave. Using new techniques to localize these effects in the brain, Jaspers-Fayer is now disentangling both when and where in the brain the process of rumination begins and what conditions increase the likelihood and the duration of rumination. Jaspers-Fayer’s work will ultimately lend knowledge to our understanding of the underlying cognitive mechanisms involved in emotion, helping to pinpoint the timing and activation of brain areas involved in depression. Her research in rumination could potentially inform new approaches and therapies for treating depression.