A new study using MRI scans, led by Professor Jianfeng Feng of the University of Warwick’s Department of Computer Science, has found that depression frequently seems to uncouple the brain’s ‘hate circuit’
MRI study finds that depression uncouples brain’s hate circuit
A new study using MRI scans, led by Professor Jianfeng Feng of the University of Warwick’s Department of Computer Science, has found that depression frequently seems to uncouple the brain’s ‘hate circuit’.
Researchers scanned the brain activity in 39 depressed people and 37 control subjects who were not depressed. They found the MRI scans revealed significant differences in the brain circuitry of the two groups. The greatest difference observed in the depressed patients was the uncoupling of the so-called ‘hate circuit’ involving the superior frontal gyrus, insula and putamen. The hate circuit was first clearly identified in 2008 by UCL Professor Semir Zeki, who found a circuit that seemed to connect three regions in the brain (the superior frontal gyrus, insula and putamen) when test subjects were shown pictures of people they hated. The new University of Warwick-led research found that, in significant numbers of the depressed test subjects they examined by MRI, this hate circuit had become decoupled. Professor Feng said: ‘The results are clear but at first sight puzzling as we know that depression is often characterised by intense self-loathing and there is no obvious indication that depressives are less prone to hate others. One possibility is that the uncoupling of this hate circuit could be associated with impaired ability to control and learn from social or other situations which provoke feelings of hate towards self or others. This in turn could lead to an inability to deal appropriately with feelings of hate and an increased likelihood of both uncontrolled self-loathing and withdrawal from social interactions. It may be that this is a neurological indication that it is more normal to have occasion to hate others rather than hate ourselves.’
The study is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.