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Title: The impact of cognitive control deficits and rumination on depressive symptoms and social cognition : implications for the postnatal period
Author: DeJong, Hannah
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Rumination is a maladaptive emotional regulation strategy that involves a negative and repetitive focus on one's self and one's thoughts. Ruminative thinking is often pervasive in the context of depression and is understood to play a role in the onset and maintenance of depressive symptoms. Two major themes are explored throughout the thesis: firstly, the idea that cognitive control deficits underpin rumination, which in turn increases vulnerability to depression; secondly, the proposed role that rumination plays in impairing social cognition. These themes are explored in relation to general adult depression, and also with reference to specific applications during the perinatal period. Cognitive control refers to the set of processes involved in facilitating flexible and goal-driven behaviour, notably the ability to direct and control the focus of attention. Theoretical models posit that deficits in cognitive control promote rumination, as ruminative thought is more likely to occur and persist where there are difficulties with flexibly directing attention. Both cognitive control deficits and rumination have been consistently linked with increased vulnerability to depression. Rumination is hypothesised to mediate relationships between cognitive control and depression. In this thesis, associations between cognitive control, rumination and depressive symptoms are examined both concurrently (Chapter 2), and in a longitudinal design (Chapter 3). The impact of manipulating cognitive control using a cognitive training paradigm is also explored (Chapter 6), with rumination as a key outcome. It has been suggested that rumination mediates the effects of depression on social functioning, as it involves a persistent, internally-directed focus of attention. It is thought that this may impair effective engagement with social cues and social cognitive processes. In the postnatal context, rumination is hypothesised to be a mechanism through which depression affects parenting, which can be conceptualised as a specific example of social functioning. In this thesis, associations between rumination and empathy are examined using questionnaire measures (Chapter 4), and the impact of induced rumination on processing of infant cues is assessed (Chapter 5). In summary, the thesis begins with an introduction to the relevant concepts and literature, then presents findings from a systematic review (Chapter 1) and series of experimental studies (Chapters 2-6). Finally, remaining questions, directions for future research and possible clinical applications of the work are discussed (Chapter 7).
Supervisor: Stein, Alan ; Fox, Elaine Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available