Examining Rumination and Neurophysiological Measures of Emotional Reactivity and Regulation in Depressed Adolescents
The goal of the current study is to investigate the neural mechanisms and time course of emotion and associations with individual differences in rumination in a sample of depressed adolescents. Rumination is the repetitive and focused attention on one’s distress and involves the inability to produce effective solutions to one’s problems, and this negative thought process may prolong or worsen depressive symptoms. The effects of rumination on neural processing of emotionally salient stimuli can be examined using electrophysiological measures. In this study, 55 depressed adolescents completed an emotion regulation task during which they were asked to observe 25 sad and 25 neutral images. Participants were instructed to either react as they normally would or reduce their emotional response to the pictures while electroencephalogram (EEG) data was recorded. The late positive potential (LPP), which reflects sustained attention to stimuli, was measured in order to understand how and when individuals allocate their attention to negative stimuli. Results showed that higher levels of depressive rumination correlated with reduced LPPs during reappraisal for both middle (1000-3500ms) and late (3500-6000ms) time windows. Reactivity indexed by the LPP was higher in both reappraise and look conditions compared to the neutral condition. Additionally, the difference for the reappraise condition compared to the look condition was trending significant in the expected direction, where LPP magnitude was relatively decreased during reappraisal compared to passive viewing of the images. Such insight into these stages of emotion processing may help target interventions in reducing ruminative thought processes in certain subgroups of depressed populations.