Theory of mind deficits in chronically depressed patients.
ABSTRACT Poor theory of mind (ToM) performance has been found in patients with mood disorders, but it has not been examined in the subgroup of chronic depression where ToM deficits may be even more persistent than in acute depressive episodes. The aim of this study was to compare the ToM performance of chronically depressed patients with a healthy control group and to clarify the relation of ToM to other cognitive functions.
ToM performance was assessed in 30 chronically depressed patients and 30 matched healthy controls by two cartoon picture story tests. In addition, logical memory, alertness, and executive functioning were evaluated.
Chronically depressed patients were markedly impaired in all ToM- and neuropsychological tasks compared to healthy controls. Performance in the different ToM tests was significantly correlated with at least one other cognitive variable. After controlling for logical memory and working memory, no ToM tasks predicted being a patient.
Patients with chronic depression present significant deficits in "reading" social interactions, which may be associated with general cognitive impairments.
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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Depression is associated with problems in social functioning. Impaired empathic abilities might underlie this association. Empathy is a multidimensional construct and involves both affective and cognitive processes. We reviewed the literature to find out to what extent depression may be associated with abnormal levels of affective and cognitive empathy. We also explored potential gender differences in these associations. METHODS: We used PsycInfo and Medline to conduct a systematic review of all studies on empathy and depression conducted in individuals with a primary diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD; patient samples) or in individuals with primarily subclinical depressive symptoms (analog samples). RESULTS: Thirty-seven studies met the inclusion criteria. The results indicated that depression was related to one type of affective empathy. Specifically, depression was related to high levels of empathic stress but not to abnormal empathic concern. Further, depression was related to limited cognitive empathy, as indicated by poor perspective taking, theory of mind, and empathic accuracy. LIMITATIONS: Few studies have considered the variable gender in their design and analyses. Between and within study variation in demographic and clinical variables limits the interpretation of results. Self-report measures of empathy are subjective and vulnerable to bias. Poor performance on the more objective laboratory tasks might partially be explained by the broader cognitive deficits commonly observed in depression. Lastly, because all studies used a cross-sectional design, causality is difficult to establish. CONCLUSIONS: Empathic abilities may be impaired in depression. The relation between empathy, depression, and gender is unclear. Future studies could use implicit and more ecologically valid measures of empathy. Insight into impaired empathy in depression may not only help explain poor social functioning in MDD but also benefit clinician-patient interactions.Journal of affective disorders 05/2013; · 3.76 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: Key questions remain unaddressed concerning the nature of interpersonal functioning in trauma survivors, including the ability to understand and interpret other people's thoughts and feelings. Here, we investigate theory of mind (ToM) performance of women with PTSD related to childhood abuse in comparison to healthy controls. METHOD: Participants completed two ToM tasks, the Interpersonal Perception Task-15 (IPT-15) and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task - Revised (RMET). RESULTS: Relative to controls, women with a history of childhood trauma had difficulty recognizing familial relationships depicted in the IPT-15 (P = 0.005). No other category of the IPT-15 showed significant group differences. In addition, while healthy women displayed faster RMET reaction times to emotionally valenced mental states (positive: P = 0.003; negative: P = 0.016) compared with neutral mental states, the PTSD group showed similar reaction times across all valences. The presence of dissociative symptoms (e.g., disengagement, amnesia, identity dissociation) was strongly associated with hindered accuracy of complex mental state identification and altered perception of kinship interactions. CONCLUSION: Women with PTSD stemming from childhood trauma show changes in ToM abilities particularly those often involved in the interpretation of family interactions. In addition, individuals with PTSD showed slower reaction times during the recognition of complex mental states from emotionally salient facial/eye expressions in comparison with healthy subjects.Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 05/2013; · 4.86 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Attachment is the way we relate to others. The way we attach to others is developed early in childhood, can be impaired by early traumatic life events, and is disturbed in many psychiatric disorders. Here we give a short overview about attachment patterns in psychiatric disorders with a focus on depression, and discuss two recent empirical studies of our own that have investigated attachment related brain activation using fMRI. In the first study with patients with borderline personality disorder we used a paradigm in which patients produced narratives in response to attachment pictures and measured brain activity while participants were talking. Our results are consistent with the view that BPD pathology might be correlated with traumatic attachment fear related to autobiographic abuse and loss experiences. In the second study we investigated patients with major depression undergoing therapy in a longitudinal design. In this study we used a design with individualized stimuli that were extracted from narratives produced outside of the scanner. We found that patients, as compared to healthy controls, showed differences in a pre–post comparison. The significant correlation of changes in the subgenual cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex with symptom improvement provides evidence that these regions are involved in mediating therapy related effects.Journal of Consciousness Studies 10/2013; 20(7-8):292-305. · 0.77 Impact Factor