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Treatment of medical patients with the inflammatory cytokine, interferon-α (IFN-α), is frequently associated with the development of clinical depressive symptomatology. Several important biological correlates of the effect of IFN-α on mood have been described, but the neuropsychological changes associated with IFN-α treatment are largely unexplored. The aim of the present preliminary study was to assess the effect of IFN-α on measures of emotional processing.
We measured changes in emotional processing over 6–8 weeks in 17 patients receiving IFN-α as part of their treatment for hepatitis C virus infection. Emotional processing tasks included those which have previously been shown to be sensitive to the effects of depression and antidepressant treatment, namely facial expression recognition, emotional categorisation and the dot probe attentional task.
Following IFN-α, patients were more accurate at detecting facial expressions of disgust; they also showed diminished attentional vigilance to happy faces. IFN-α produced the expected increases in scores on depression rating scales, but there was no correlation between these scores and the changes in emotional processing.
Our preliminary findings suggest that IFN-α treatment produces negative biases in emotional processing, and this effect is not simply a consequence of depression. It is possible that increased recognition of disgust may represent a neuropsychological marker of depressive disorders related to inflammation.
Negative bias and aberrant neural processing of emotional faces are trait-marks of depression but findings in healthy high-risk groups are conflicting.
Healthy middle-aged dizygotic twins (N = 42) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): 22 twins had a co-twin history of depression (high-risk) and 20 were without co-twin history of depression (low-risk). During fMRI, participants viewed fearful and happy faces while performing a gender discrimination task. After the scan, they were given a faces dot-probe task, a facial expression recognition task and questionnaires assessing mood, personality traits and coping.
Unexpectedly, high-risk twins showed reduced fear vigilance and lower recognition of fear and happiness relative to low-risk twins. During face processing in the scanner, high-risk twins displayed distinct negative functional coupling between the amygdala and ventral prefrontal cortex and pregenual anterior cingulate. This was accompanied by greater fear-specific fronto-temporal response and reduced fronto-occipital response to all emotional faces relative to baseline. The risk groups showed no differences in mood, subjective state or coping.
Less susceptibility to fearful faces and negative cortico-limbic coupling during emotional face processing may reflect neurocognitive compensatory mechanisms in middle-aged dizygotic twins who remain healthy despite their familial risk of depression.
Aberrant emotional biases have been reported in bipolar disorder (BD), but results are inconsistent. Despite the clinical relevance of chronic mood variability in BD, there is no previous research investigating how the extent of symptom fluctuations in bipolar disorder might relate to emotional biases. This exploratory study investigated, in a large cohort of bipolar patients, whether instability in weekly mood episode symptoms and other clinical and demographic factors were related to emotional bias as measured in a simple laboratory task.
Participants (N = 271, BDI = 206, BDII = 121) completed an ‘emotional categorization and memory’ task. Weekly self-reported symptoms of depression and mania were collected prospectively. In linear regression analyses, associations between cognitive bias and mood variability were explored together with the influence of demographic and clinical factors, including current medication.
Greater accuracy in the classification of negative words relative to positive words was associated with greater instability in depressive symptoms. Furthermore, greater negative bias in free recall was associated with higher instability in manic symptoms. Participants diagnosed with BDII, compared with BDI, showed overall better word recognition and recall. Current antipsychotic use was associated with reduced instability in manic symptoms but this did not impact on emotional processing performance.
Emotional processing biases in bipolar disorder are related to instability in mood. These findings prompt further investigation into the underpinnings as well as clinical significance of mood instability.
Cognitive dysfunction in depression and bipolar disorder (BD) is insufficiently targeted by available treatments. Erythropoietin (EPO) increases neuroplasticity and may improve cognition in mood disorders, but the neuronal mechanisms of these effects are unknown. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigated the effects of EPO on neural circuitry activity during working memory (WM) performance.
Patients with treatment-resistant major depression, who were moderately depressed, or with BD in partial remission, were randomized to eight weekly infusions of EPO (40 000 IU) (N = 30) or saline (N = 26) in a double-blind, parallel-group design. Patients underwent fMRI, mood ratings and blood tests at baseline and week 14. During fMRI patients performed an n-back WM task.
EPO improved WM accuracy compared with saline (p = 0.045). Whole-brain analyses revealed that EPO increased WM load-related activity in the right superior frontal gyrus (SFG) compared with saline (p = 0.01). There was also enhanced WM load-related deactivation of the left hippocampus in EPO-treated compared to saline-treated patients (p = 0.03). Across the entire sample, baseline to follow-up changes in WM performance correlated positively with changes in WM-related SFG activity and negatively with hippocampal response (r = 0.28–0.30, p < 0.05). The effects of EPO were not associated with changes in mood or red blood cells (p ⩾0.08).
The present findings associate changes in WM-load related activity in the right SFG and left hippocampus with improved executive function in EPO-treated patients. Clinical trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov: NCT00916552.
Fluoxetine is generally regarded as the first-line pharmacological treatment for young people, as it is believed to show a more favourable benefit:risk ratio than other antidepressants. However, the mechanisms through which fluoxetine influences symptoms in youth have been little investigated. This study examined whether acute administration of fluoxetine in a sample of young healthy adults altered the processing of affective information, including positive, sad and anger cues.
A total of 35 male and female volunteers aged between 18 and 21 years old were randomized to receive a single 20 mg dose of fluoxetine or placebo. At 6 h after administration, participants completed a facial expression recognition task, an emotion-potentiated startle task, an attentional dot-probe task and the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. Subjective ratings of mood, anxiety and side effects were also taken pre- and post-fluoxetine/placebo administration.
Relative to placebo-treated participants, participants receiving fluoxetine were less accurate at identifying anger and sadness and did not show the emotion-potentiated startle effect. There were no overall significant effects of fluoxetine on subjective ratings of mood.
Fluoxetine can modulate emotional processing after a single dose in young adults. This pattern of effects suggests a potential cognitive mechanism for the greater benefit:risk ratio of fluoxetine in adolescent patients.
The British Society of Audiology has produced clear guidelines as to how otoscopy should be undertaken; however, no nationally recognised guidelines exist for the wider clinical community. Images of otoscopy appear in many books, journals, magazines and websites.
This study aimed to determine the rate of non-compliance with good practice in images of otoscopy, the seriousness of the breach, and whether this is more common in sites for professionals or the general public.
Google Images was searched using the terms ‘otoscopy’ and ‘ear examination’. A total of 200 images were identified and collated. The images were reviewed for compliance with good practice standards.
Only 12.75 per cent of the images were graded as having no breach of good practice standards.
Professional websites have a responsibility to show best practice. When choosing an image, the source of the image needs to be carefully considered.
Many studies have explored associations between depression and facial emotion recognition (ER). However, these studies have used various paradigms and multiple stimulus sets, rendering comparisons difficult. Few studies have attempted to determine the magnitude of any effect and whether studies are properly powered to detect it. We conducted a meta-analysis to synthesize the findings across studies on ER in depressed individuals compared to controls.
Studies of ER that included depressed and control samples and published before June 2013 were identified in PubMed and Web of Science. Studies using schematic faces, neuroimaging studies and drug treatment studies were excluded.
Meta-analysis of k = 22 independent samples indicated impaired recognition of emotion [k = 22, g = −0.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.25 to −0.07, p < 0.001]. Critically, this was observed for anger, disgust, fear, happiness and surprise (k's = 7–22, g's = −0.42 to −0.17, p's < 0.08), but not sadness (k = 21, g = −0.09, 95% CI −0.23 to +0.06, p = 0.23). Study-level characteristics did not appear to be associated with the observed effect. Power analysis indicated that a sample of approximately 615 cases and 615 controls would be required to detect this association with 80% power at an alpha level of 0.05.
These findings suggest that the ER impairment reported in the depression literature exists across all basic emotions except sadness. The effect size, however, is small, and previous studies have been underpowered.
Negative cognitive bias and aberrant neural processing of emotional faces are trait-marks of depression. Yet it is unclear whether these changes constitute an endophenotype for depression and are also present in healthy individuals with hereditary risk for depression.
Thirty healthy, never-depressed monozygotic (MZ) twins with a co-twin history of depression (high risk group: n = 13) or without co-twin history of depression (low-risk group: n = 17) were enrolled in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. During fMRI, participants viewed fearful and happy faces while performing a gender discrimination task. After the scan, they were given a faces dot-probe task, a facial expression recognition task and questionnaires assessing mood, personality traits and coping strategies.
High-risk twins showed increased neural response to happy and fearful faces in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), pre-supplementary motor area and occipito-parietal regions compared to low-risk twins. They also displayed stronger negative coupling between amygdala and pregenual ACC, dmPFC and temporo-parietal regions during emotional face processing. These task-related changes in neural responses in high-risk twins were accompanied by impaired gender discrimination performance during face processing. They also displayed increased attention vigilance for fearful faces and were slower at recognizing facial expressions relative to low-risk controls. These effects occurred in the absence of differences between groups in mood, subjective state or coping.
Different neural response and functional connectivity within fronto-limbic and occipito-parietal regions during emotional face processing and enhanced fear vigilance may be key endophenotypes for depression.
Short-term antidepressant administration has been reported to decrease amygdala response to threat in healthy volunteers and depressed patients. Neuroticism (N) is a risk factor for depression but has also been associated with slow or incomplete remission with antidepressant drug treatment. Our aim was to investigate early selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) administration neural effects on implicit processing of fearful facial expressions in volunteers with high levels of N.
Highly neurotic subjects received 20 mg/day citalopram versus placebo for 7 days in a double-blind, between-groups design. On the last day haemoperfusion and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data during a gender discrimination task with fearful and happy faces were acquired. A control group of non-neurotic volunteers was also tested.
High-N volunteers had reduced responses to threatening facial expressions across key neural circuits compared to low-N volunteers. SSRI treatment was found to elevate resting perfusion in the right amygdala, increase bilateral amygdalae activation to positive and negative facial expressions and increase activation to fearful versus happy facial expressions in occipital, parietal, temporal and prefrontal cortical areas.
These results suggest that 7 days of SSRI administration can increase neural markers of fear reactivity in subjects at the high end of the N dimension and may be related to early increases in anxiety and agitation seen early in treatment. Such processes may be involved in the later therapeutic effects through decreased avoidance and increased learning about social ‘threat’ cues.
Antidepressant drugs such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) remediate negative biases in emotional processing in depressed patients in both behavioural and neural outcome measures. However, it is not clear if these effects occur before, or as a consequence of, changes in clinical state.
In the present study, we investigated the effects of short-term SSRI treatment in depressed patients on the neural response to fearful faces prior to clinical improvement in mood. Altogether, 42 unmedicated depressed patients received SSRI treatment (10 mg escitalopram daily) or placebo in a randomised, parallel-group design. The neural response to fearful and happy faces was measured on day 7 of treatment using functional magnetic resonance imaging. A group of healthy controls was imaged in the same way.
Amygdala responses to fearful facial expressions were significantly greater in depressed patients compared to healthy controls. However, this response was normalised in patients receiving 7 days treatment with escitalopram. There was no significant difference in clinical depression ratings at 7 days between the escitalopram and placebo-treated patients.
Our results suggest that short-term SSRI treatment in depressed patients remediates amygdala hyperactivity in response to negative emotional stimuli prior to clinical improvement in depressed mood. This supports the hypothesis that the clinical effects of antidepressant treatment may be mediated in part through early changes in emotional processing. Further studies will be needed to show if these early effects of antidepressant medication predict eventual clinical outcome.
Antidepressant drug treatments increase the processing of positive compared to negative affective information early in treatment. Such effects have been hypothesized to play a key role in the development of later therapeutic responses to treatment. However, it is unknown whether these effects are a common mechanism of action for different treatment modalities. High-density negative ion (HDNI) treatment is an environmental manipulation that has efficacy in randomized clinical trials in seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The current study investigated whether a single session of HDNI treatment could reverse negative affective biases seen in seasonal depression using a battery of emotional processing tasks in a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study.
Under placebo conditions, participants with seasonal mood disturbance showed reduced recognition of happy facial expressions, increased recognition memory for negative personality characteristics and increased vigilance to masked presentation of negative words in a dot-probe task compared to matched healthy controls. Negative ion treatment increased the recognition of positive compared to negative facial expression and improved vigilance to unmasked stimuli across participants with seasonal depression and healthy controls. Negative ion treatment also improved recognition memory for positive information in the SAD group alone. These effects were seen in the absence of changes in subjective state or mood.
These results are consistent with the hypothesis that early change in emotional processing may be an important mechanism for treatment action in depression and suggest that these effects are also apparent with negative ion treatment in seasonal depression.
Dysfunctions in the regulation of emotional responses are related to poor psychological well-being and increased impact of cardiovascular disease. It has been suggested that the relationship between negative affect and higher morbidity could be mediated by a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), for example, of heart rate variability (HRV). Neuroticism is a personality trait associated with a maladaptive emotion regulation and also with alterations in ANS function. However, it is unknown whether subjects with high neuroticism present with specific biases in emotion regulation associated with reduced HRV.
In total, 33 healthy subjects (n=13, highly neurotic) performed an emotion regulation task, during which they were instructed to either passively view negative pictures or attempt to down-regulate the affect elicited by the images. During the task an electrocardiogram was recorded and HRV was measured by calculation of the high frequency spectrum (HF-HRV).
A significant interaction between task condition and personality group was observed on HF-HRV measures (F1,31=6.569, p=0.016). This was driven by subjects with low neuroticism presenting higher HF-HRV during down-regulation compared to passive exposure to negative stimuli, while subjects with high neuroticism reported an opposite tendency.
Our results show reduced HF-HRV during cognitive reappraisal of negative stimuli in high neuroticism and indicate a specific link between loss of flexibility in the parasympathetic cardiovascular tone and emotion regulation, consistent with previous work. Such findings support the importance of exploring the combination of ANS adaptability and emotional dysregulation in neuroticism as different facets of a common psychosomatic vulnerability factor.
Processing emotional facial expressions is of interest in eating disorders (EDs) as impairments in recognizing and understanding social cues might underlie the interpersonal difficulties experienced by these patients. Disgust and anger are of particular theoretical and clinical interest. The current study investigated the neural response to facial expressions of anger and disgust in bulimia nervosa (BN).
Participants were 12 medication-free women with BN in an acute episode (mean age 24 years), and 16 age-, gender- and IQ-matched healthy volunteers (HVs). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine neural responses to angry and disgusted facial expressions.
Compared with HVs, patients with BN had a decreased neural response in the precuneus to facial expressions of both anger and disgust and a decreased neural response to angry facial expressions in the right amygdala.
The neural response to emotional facial expressions in BN differs from that found in HVs. The precuneus response may be consistent with the application of mentalization theory to EDs, and the amygdala response with relevant ED theory. The findings are preliminary, but novel, and require replication in a larger sample.
Biases in emotional processing and cognitions about the self are thought to play a role in the maintenance of eating disorders (EDs). However, little is known about whether these difficulties exist pre-morbidly and how they might contribute to risk.
Female dieters (n=82) completed a battery of tasks designed to assess the processing of social cues (facial emotion recognition), cognitions about the self [Self-Schema Processing Task (SSPT)] and ED-specific cognitions about eating, weight and shape (emotional Stroop). The 26-item Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26; Garner et al.1982) was used to assess subclinical ED symptoms; this was used as an index of vulnerability within this at-risk group.
Regression analyses showed that biases in the processing of both neutral and angry faces were predictive of our measure of vulnerability (EAT-26). In the self-schema task, biases in the processing of negative self descriptors previously found to be common in EDs predicted vulnerability. Biases in the processing of shape-related words on the Stroop task were also predictive; however, these biases were more important in dieters who also displayed biases in the self-schema task. We were also able to demonstrate that these biases are specific and separable from more general negative biases that could be attributed to depressive symptoms.
These results suggest that specific biases in the processing of social cues, cognitions about the self, and also about eating, weight and shape information, may be important in understanding risk and preventing relapse in EDs.
Previous imaging studies have revealed that acute major depression is characterized by altered neural responses to negative emotional stimuli. Typically, responses in limbic regions such as the amygdala are increased while activity in cortical regulatory regions such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is diminished. Whether these changes persist in unmedicated recovered patients is unclear.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine neural responses to emotional faces in a facial expression-matching task in 16 unmedicated recovered depressed patients and 21 healthy controls.
Compared with controls, recovered depressed patients had increased responses bilaterally to fearful faces in the DLPFC and right caudate. Responses in the amygdala did not distinguish the groups.
Our findings indicate that clinical recovery from depression is associated with increased activity in the DLPFC to negative emotional stimuli. We suggest that this increase may reflect a compensatory cortical control mechanism with the effect of limiting emotional dysregulation in limbic regions such as the amygdala.
Memory deficits are common in depressed patients and may persist after recovery. The aim of the present study was to determine whether memory impairments were present in young women at increased familial risk of depression and whether memory performance was related either to cortisol secretion or to allelic variation in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT).
Young women (n=35, age range 16–21 years) with no personal history of depression but with a depressed parent (FH+) carried out the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT). They also provided samples for the measurement of waking salivary cortisol and for 5-HTT genotyping. An age-matched control group of women (n=31) with no family history of depression were similarly studied.
The FH+ participants had decreased immediate recall and recognition memory compared to controls. The impairment in recall, but not recognition, correlated negatively with increased cortisol secretion in FH+ subjects. There was no significant effect of 5-HTT allelic status on either memory or waking cortisol secretion.
Impairments in declarative memory are present in young women at increased genetic risk of depression and may be partly related to increased cortisol secretion. Further studies are needed to explore the neural mechanisms underlying the memory impairments and whether they predict the development of clinical illness.
Dopants Y and Zr at 100 ppm levels in high purity, micron grain-size polycrystalline alumina are mainly segregated to the alumina grain boundaries and strongly reduce high temperature creep. Information about this segregation has come from high resolution STEM composition mapping experiments. Information about local structural surroundings of the dopant atoms has come from EXAFS experiments, and information about local bonding of the dopant atoms has come from XANES experiments. Structural models for dopant grain boundary segregation provide a context for these experimental results and for effects of dopant incorporation on grain boundary mediated transport. Recent experimental and theoretical results are discussed in this paper.
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