October 6, 2011

Depression Disrupts Hate Circuit

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- "I hate you," are three words the brain of someone who's depressed may not be thinking. A new study published in the October 4th issue of the journal, Molecular Psychiatry, has found that depression seems to uncouple the brain's "Hate Circuit".

The hate circuit was first identified in 2008 by UCL Professor Semir Zeki. He found that a circuit connecting three regions in the brain, the superior frontal gyrus, insula and putamen, was activated when test subjects were shown pictures of people they hated.

The new research, led by Professor Jianfeng Feng, from the University of Warwick's Department of Computer Science, used MRI scanners to scan the brain activity in 39 depressed people and 37 control subjects who were not depressed.

The 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".

Other differences included changes in circuits related to risk and action responses in the brain, as wells as reward and emotion, and attention and memory processing.

Results showed that in depressed subjects:

• The Hate circuits were 92 percent likely to be decoupled
• The Risk/Action circuit was 92 percent likely to be decoupled
• The Emotion/Reward circuit was 82 percent likely to be decoupled

"The results are clear but at first sight are puzzling as we know that depression is often characterized by intense self loathing and there is no obvious indication that depressives are less prone to hate others," Professor Jianfeng Feng was quoted as saying.

So, why would the brains of the depressed have an uncoupled hate circuit? Feng goes on to explain, "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."

Professor Feng also offered one more explanation saying "it may be that this is a neurological indication that it is more normal to have occasion to hate others rather than hate ourselves."

SOURCE: Molecular Psychiatry, published online Tuesday October 4, 2011