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Title: Self referential processing following psychological intervention for depression : an fMRI study
Author: Watson, Debbie
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2014
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Background: There are multiple conflicting theories of depression and clients are frequently given contradictory explanations of their difficulties. Evidence that brings together biological, psychological and social factors of depression would be particularly useful in addressing this. The current study investigates the neural correlates of self-referential processing following psychological intervention for depression. This provides neurological evidence of how a central feature of psychological models may change following therapy. Methodology: Fourteen participants, who had received psychological intervention for depression, underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans whilst completing three types of cognitive task: a self-referential processing task, an other-referential processing task, and a graphical task. Participants’ neural activation during self-referential processing was compared to that of ten depressed participants and twelve control participants, which had been collected for a previous study. Results: When positive and negative self-referential processing were considered together, there was no normalisation of neural activation in the post-therapy group, despite normalisation on the BDI II. When positive and negative self-referential processing were considered separately there were fewer areas of significant neural activation during negative self-referential processing in the post-therapy group than in the depressed group. Indicating that neural activation in the post-therapy group normalised. In contrast, during positive self-referential processing, a lack of difference between the control group and the depressed group precluded the possibility of normalisation. Conclusions: The findings provide further support for the importance of the self in models of depression. In presenting neurological evidence in relation to psychological models and psychological therapy, they help bring together biological and psycho-social models of depression. It is possible that the ongoing patterns of atypical activation during self-referential processing represent a vulnerability to future episodes of depression. Possible explanations for the valence-specific findings are discussed and these are highlighted as interesting future research questions. Limitations of the research methodology are discussed and possible directions for future research are outlined.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Liverpool
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry