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Maintaining mechanisms in chronic depression and their changeability: the role of enhanced discrepancy responding

Principal Investigator:
Research Team:
  • Julia Huntenburg

  • Titus Schroeter

Mindulness-based interventions have proved to be efficacious in the treatment of chronic-recurrent depression. This study aims to investigate potential mechanisms of action.

Despite considerable progress in our understanding of depression, the treatment of those who have entered a chronic course of the disorder still represents a major challenge. In order to develop more effective interventions it is important to learn more about maintaining mechanisms and the ways in which these can be addressed.

Chronically depressed patients have consistently been found to show increased levels of neuroticism/dispositional negative affect and recent research suggests that such increased temperamental risk is associated with enhanced brain responses to errors and discrepancies as measured by an event-related potential in EEG termed error-related negativity (ERN).

The current project is based on the assumption that this phenomenon plays an important role in self-perpetuating cognitive processes involved in the maintenance of symptoms in chronic depression. We aim to demonstrate that

a) increased responding to errors and discrepancies is particularly characteristic of patients with a chronic lifetime course of the disorder,

b) that it is associated with increased tendencies to engage in maladaptive ruminative patterns of thinking previously shown to be crucially involved in the maintenance of symptoms, and c) that mental training using mindfulness meditation can successfully normalize increased error responding and thereby reduce increased tendencies towards engagement in such ruminative patterns of thinking.