Risk for depression and neural responses to fearful facial expressions of emotion

Stella Chan, Raymond Norbury, Guy Goodwin, Catherine Harmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depression is associated with neural abnormalities in emotional processing.
This study explored whether these abnormalities underlie risk for depression.
We compared the neural responses of volunteers who were at high and low-risk for the development of depression (by virtue of high and low neuroticism scores; high-N group and low-N group respectively) during the presentation of fearful and happy faces using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The high-N group demonstrated linear increases in response in the right fusiform gyrus and left middle temporal gyrus to expressions of increasing fear, whereas the low-N group demonstrated the opposite effect. The high-N group also displayed greater responses in the right amygdala, cerebellum, left middle frontal and bilateral parietal gyri to medium levels of fearful v. happy expressions.
Risk for depression is associated with enhanced neural responses to fearful facial expressions similar to those observed in acute depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages6
JournalThe British Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

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