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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030016. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Mood induction in depressive patients: a comparative multidimensional approach.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany.


Anhedonia, reduced positive affect and enhanced negative affect are integral characteristics of major depressive disorder (MDD). Emotion dysregulation, e.g. in terms of different emotion processing deficits, has consistently been reported. The aim of the present study was to investigate mood changes in depressive patients using a multidimensional approach for the measurement of emotional reactivity to mood induction procedures. Experimentally, mood states can be altered using various mood induction procedures. The present study aimed at validating two different positive mood induction procedures in patients with MDD and investigating which procedure is more effective and applicable in detecting dysfunctions in MDD. The first procedure relied on the presentation of happy vs. neutral faces, while the second used funny vs. neutral cartoons. Emotional reactivity was assessed in 16 depressed and 16 healthy subjects using self-report measures, measurements of electrodermal activity and standardized analyses of facial responses. Positive mood induction was successful in both procedures according to subjective ratings in patients and controls. In the cartoon condition, however, a discrepancy between reduced facial activity and concurrently enhanced autonomous reactivity was found in patients. Relying on a multidimensional assessment technique, a more comprehensive estimate of dysfunctions in emotional reactivity in MDD was available than by self-report measures alone and this was unsheathed especially by the mood induction procedure relying on cartoons. The divergent facial and autonomic responses in the presence of unaffected subjective reactivity suggest an underlying deficit in the patients' ability to express the felt arousal to funny cartoons. Our results encourage the application of both procedures in functional imaging studies for investigating the neural substrates of emotion dysregulation in MDD patients. Mood induction via cartoons appears to be superior to mood induction via faces and autobiographical material in uncovering specific emotional dysfunctions in MDD.

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