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Subgenual activation and the finger of blame: individual differences and depression vulnerability
Lythe, K.E., Gethin, J.A., Workman, C.I., LAMBON RALPH, M.A., Deakin, J.F.W., Moll, J., Zahn, R.
Psychological Medicine, 25 September 2020, 1-9
Year of publication:
Background. Subgenual cingulate cortex (SCC) responses to self-blaming emotion-evoking stimuli were previously found in individuals prone to self-blame with and without a history of major depressive disorder (MDD). This suggested SCC activation reflects self-blaming emotions such as guilt, which are central to models of MDD vulnerability. Method. Here, we re-examined these hypotheses in an independent larger sample. 109 medication-free participants (70 with remitted MDD and 39 healthy controls) underwent fMRI whilst judging self- and other-blaming emotion-evoking statements. They also completed validated questionnaires of proneness to self-blaming emotions including those related to internal (autonomy) and external (sociotropy) evaluation, which were subjected to a factor analysis. Results. An interaction between group (remitted MDD vs. Control) and condition (self- vs. other-blame) was observed in the right SCC (BA24). This was due to higher SCC signal for self-blame in remitted MDD and higher other-blame-selective activation in Control participants. Across the whole sample, extracted SCC activation cluster averages for selfversus other-blame were predicted by a regression model which included the reliable components derived from our factor analysis of measures of proneness to self-blaming emotions. Interestingly, this prediction was solely driven by autonomy/self-criticism, and adaptive guilt factors, with no effect of sociotropy/dependency. Conclusions. Despite confirming the prediction of SCC activation in self-blame-prone individuals and those vulnerable to MDD, our results suggest that SCC activation reflects blame irrespective of where it is directed rather than selective for self. We speculate that selfcritical individuals have more extended SCC representations for blame in the context of selfagency.
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