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Changes in the neural correlates of self-blame following mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in remitted depressed participants

Williams, K ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8167-0951, Elliott, R, McKie, S, Zahn, R, Barnhofer, T and Anderson, IM (2020) Changes in the neural correlates of self-blame following mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in remitted depressed participants. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 304. ISSN 0925-4927

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Abstract

Mindfulness-Based-Cognitive-Therapy (MBCT) reduces vulnerability for relapse into depression by helping individuals to counter tendencies to engage in maladaptive repetitive patterns of thinking and respond more compassionately to negative self-judgment. However, little is known about the neural correlates underlying these effects. To elucidate these correlates, we investigated fMRI brain activation during a task eliciting feelings of blaming oneself or others. Sixteen participants in remission from major depressive disorder (MDD) completed fMRI assessments before and after MBCT, alongside self-reported levels of self-compassion, mindfulness, and depression symptoms. Analyses of self-blame versus other-blame contrasts showed a reduction in activation in the bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate/medial superior frontal gyrus after MBCT compared to baseline. Further, exploratory analyses showed that increases in self-kindness after MBCT correlated with reduced activation in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)/precuneus in self-blame versus rest contrasts. These findings suggest that MBCT is associated with a reduction in activations in cortical midline regions to self-blame which may be mediated by increasing self-kindness. However, this is a small, uncontrolled study with 16 participants and therefore our results will need confirmation in a controlled study.

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