How brooding minds inhibit negative material: An event-related fMRI study

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★ The tendency to use depressive brooding was measured in a sample of healthy volunteers. ★ Brooding tendencies are not related to behavioral outcomes of inhibitory control. ★ Brooding tendencies are positively related to neural activation in the anterior cingulate cortex. ★ Brooding tendencies affect performance efficiency but not performance effectiveness.

Depressive brooding – a passive ruminative focus on one's problems, negative mood and their consequences – is a thinking style that places individuals at a greater risk to develop future psychopathology. In this study, we investigated whether inter-individual differences in depressive brooding are related to neural differences underlying the inhibition of a dominant response towards negative information in favor of the concurrent (positive) response. To exclude the possibility that information processes would be confounded by sustained negative mood or enhanced stress responses, a sample of thirty never-depressed healthy individuals was selected. The Cued Emotional Control Task (CECT) was used to index the ability to enhance cognitive control when encountering a negative stimulus associated with an incompatible stimulus–response mapping. Individual brooding scores were not related to behavioral performances on the CECT. On the other hand, whole brain analyses demonstrated that trait depressive brooding scores were positively associated with activation in the posterior parts of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (pdACC) while successfully inhibiting a response to negative relative to positive information. These findings demonstrate that brooding minds need to recruit more pdACC activation when inhibiting a dominant response towards negative information (in favor of a response towards positive), although they are performing similarly as low brooders at the behavioral level. Future research should investigate whether and how these brooding related neural adjustments in healthy volunteers are related to future psychopathology.

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