Aberrant brain responses to emotionally valent words in normalised after cognitive behavioural therapy in female depressed adolescents

Chuang, Jie-Yu and Whitaker, Kirstie J. and Murray, Graham K. and Elliott, Rebecca and Hagan, Cindy C. and Graham, Julia M.E. and Ooi, Cinly and Tait, Roger and Holt, Rosemary J. and van Nieuwenhuizen, Adrienne O. and Reynolds, Shirley and Wilkinson, Paul O. and Bullmore, Edward T. and Lennox, Belinda R. and Sahakian, Barbara J. and Goodyear, Ian M. and Suckling, John (2015) Aberrant brain responses to emotionally valent words in normalised after cognitive behavioural therapy in female depressed adolescents. Journal of Affective Disorders, 189. pp. 54-61. ISSN 0165-0327

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Depression in adolescence is debilitating with high recurrence in adulthood, yet its pathophysiological mechanism remains enigmatic. To examine the interaction between emotion, cognition and treatment, functional brain responses to sad and happy distractors in an affective go/no-go task were explored before and after Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in depressed female adolescents, and healthy participants.


Eighty-two Depressed and 24 healthy female adolescents, aged 12–17 years, performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) affective go/no-go task at baseline. Participants were instructed to withhold their responses upon seeing happy or sad words. Among these participants, 13 patients had CBT over approximately 30 weeks. These participants and 20 matched controls then repeated the task.


At baseline, increased activation in response to happy relative to neutral distractors was observed in the orbitofrontal cortex in depressed patients which was normalised after CBT. No significant group differences were found behaviourally or in brain activation in response to sad distractors. Improvements in symptoms (mean: 9.31, 95% CI: 5.35–13.27) were related at trend-level to activation changes in orbitofrontal cortex.


In the follow-up section, a limited number of post-CBT patients were recruited.

To our knowledge, this is the first fMRI study addressing the effect of CBT in adolescent depression. Although a bias toward negative information is widely accepted as a hallmark of depression, aberrant brain hyperactivity to positive distractors was found and normalised after CBT. Research, assessment and treatment focused on positive stimuli could be a future consideration. Moreover, a pathophysiological mechanism distinct from adult depression may be suggested and awaits further exploration.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2015.09.008
11 September 2015Published Online
5 September 2015Accepted
Subjects: CAH11 - computing > CAH11-01 - computing > CAH11-01-01 - computer science
Divisions: Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment > School of Computing and Digital Technology
Depositing User: Ian Mcdonald
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2017 13:09
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2023 12:01
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5268

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