Scientists from Novosibirsk found that depression and anxiety are not related to each other

Researchers from Novosibirsk found that the actions of the centers of activity of the brain, “supervising” depression and anxiety, are different. The work, funded by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (RSF), was published in the journal Brain Research .  

“Anxiety and depression go hand in hand in the sense that anxiety often precedes depression, sometimes they alternate, but these are qualitatively different states, even if they are combined in one person. There is also a type of depression that is not associated with anxiety, but arises from anhedonia, that is, the inability to experience positive emotions, ”explains Gennady Knyazev, head of the study, head of the laboratory of differential psychophysiology at the Research Institute of Physiology and Fundamental Medicine.

Using the so-called Beck questionnaire containing 21 questions, scientists tried to determine anxiety and identify symptoms of depression in 44 participants in the experiment. All of them were healthy people who had not previously sought help from psychotherapists and psychiatrists. As part of the testing, each was asked to indicate how often they had experienced the condition over the past two weeks. Participants were then shown photographs of people expressing negative, neutral, or positive emotions. The respondents noted whether they wanted to be friends with this person or ignore him. At the same time, an electroencephalogram of the brain was removed from them.

It turned out that the mechanisms of brain activity associated with depression and anxiety are in many ways opposite. Anxiety is associated with increased attentional reactivity, and depression is associated with decreased cognitive reactivity. In addition, in people prone to depression, the centers of emotion regulation are activated unevenly, which provides the necessary level of social interactions. It is noted that some participants in the experiment tried to ignore other people’s emotions, while others showed a negative reaction even to neutral stimuli, showing symptoms of depression. According to Knyazev, psychopathology arises from the external environment and genes, while the latter determine only 50% of the predisposition, and the rest depends on environmental influences. According to the authors of the work, the results will help develop methods for the differential diagnosis of mental pathologies, and may also help in the treatment of depression.

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