Plasticity of reward experience in daily life: the way to prevent depression?
09 / 2007 - 09 / 2011
Genen veroorzaken depressie, maar hun negatieve invloed kan worden geneutraliseerd als mensen regelmatig positieve emoties ervaren. Kan emotionele weerbaarheid in de vorm van positieve emoties worden aangeleerd bij mensen die niet opknappen van depressie, en welke genen versterken dit?
Depression research focuses almost exclusively on negative mood, with little attention to positive mood. This calls for remediation because i) positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) are not two extremes within a unidimensional construct, but relatively independent; and ii) positive emotions are likely protective since they broaden the attentional focus, thus facilitating the use of positive factors, or natural rewards, in the flow of daily life. In a recent twin study using novel momentary assessment methodology, I showed that PA not only reduced the risk of developing negative mood states in response to minor daily life stressors (a trait I identified as an indicator of genetic risk for depression), but also attenuated expression of genetic risk for depression. PA thus mitigates symptoms of, and expression of genetic risk for, depression. My research proposal, therefore, will focus on the changeability (plasticity) of the ability to experience positive emotions in response to daily events (natural rewards), as a first step towards novel (preventive) interventions. The main question is: can the ability to experience reward in daily life be experimentally modified? Additional questions are: how does experimental modification of reward impact on depressive symptomatology and can individual variation be traced to genetic variation?Approach:120 remitted depressed patients who nevertheless continue to experience significant residual symptoms will be randomized to receive mindfulness training (a technique that broadens the attentional focus) or care as usual. The Experience Sampling Method (ESM, a structured and prospective momentary assessment technique) is used to examine experience of events and affect in the flow of daily life. Potential importance of the results:Depression is prevalent and of high cost to society. Finding mechanisms increasing people s protective capacity is in line with current approaches of preventive medicine and may reduce dependence on psychotropic medications in the developed world.