Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): A Case Study

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One of the researched anomalies of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the decreased ability to keep cognitive control when faced with a negative distractor. This phenomenon has been attributed to decreased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a region of the brain associated with cognitive control, and increased activity in the brain’s fear center, the amygdala.
In the paper being reviewed, Fales et al. sought to understand how antidepressants affected the activity in the DLPFC and the amygdala when overt negative stimuli were presented but not attended to (2009). Though antidepressants have been shown to help dysfunction in the amygdala when resting and when faced with negative stimuli outside of conscious awareness (Sheline et al., 2001; Drevets, 2001), up until the
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The authors were detailed and clear in reporting these findings, though it did take time to decipher and understand them, as can be expected. The most significant of these results was that during the condition where participants ignored the fearful faces, participants in the MDD group showed a significant increase in activity level in the DLPFC after antidepressant treatment. For the same condition, MDD patients also showed a decrease in amygdala activity after antidepressant treatment. This, however, was not a significant change. Before taking antidepressants, MDD participants had significantly higher amygdala levels and significantly lower DLPFC activity levels when ignoring the fearful face then the control group. This result affirms past research concerning the activity in these brain regions of MDD patients. Despite the difference in brain activity, behaviorally the control and MDD conditions performed very similarly. There was no significant difference in accuracy of the groups in completing the task. However, participants in the MDD condition did perform the task significantly slower than the control group at time
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