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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2017 May 1;12(5):729-738. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsx014.

'Mom-I don't want to hear it': Brain response to maternal praise and criticism in adolescents with major depressive disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Department of Psychology, Harvard University.
School of Public Health, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.
Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY, USA.


Recent research has implicated altered neural response to interpersonal feedback as an important factor in adolescent depression, with existing studies focusing on responses to feedback from virtual peers. We investigated whether depressed adolescents differed from healthy youth in neural response to social evaluative feedback from mothers. During neuroimaging, twenty adolescents in a current episode of major depressive disorder (MDD) and 28 healthy controls listened to previously recorded audio clips of their own mothers' praise, criticism and neutral comments. Whole-brain voxelwise analyses revealed that MDD youth, unlike controls, exhibited increased neural response to critical relative to neutral clips in the parahippocampal gyrus, an area involved in episodic memory encoding and retrieval. Depressed adolescents also showed a blunted response to maternal praise clips relative to neutral clips in the parahippocampal gyrus, as well as areas involved in reward and self-referential processing (i.e. ventromedial prefrontal cortex, precuneus, and thalamus/caudate). Findings suggest that maternal criticism may be more strongly encoded or more strongly activated during memory retrieval related to previous autobiographical instances of negative feedback from mothers in depressed youth compared to healthy youth. Furthermore, depressed adolescents may fail to process the reward value and self-relevance of maternal praise.


adolescence; depression; social cognition; social reward; social threat

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