Overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) has emerged as an important phenomenon for understanding the etiology, phenomenology, and course of depression, and it indeed may represent a vulnerability factor for the onset and course of depression. However, knowledge is lacking about certain factors that influence OGM. Specifically, major questions remain unresolved regarding 1) the mechanisms that contribute to OGM and how they may interact, and 2) the possible molecular genetic influences on OGM and their pathways. Furthermore, the extent to which the mechanisms underlying OGM impact depression, either independently or through their effect on OGM, is unknown. This proposal aims to address these issues using data from an ongoing 8-year longitudinal prospective study of risk factors for anxiety and unipolar mood disorders. Although an examination of the mechanisms underlying OGM was not an aim of the larger investigation, measures of the proposed mechanisms are being administered for other reasons, and DNA is being collected. The proposed study will conduct an empirical test of the recent CaR-FA-X model that presents three mechanisms that may underlie OGM: capture and rumination, functional avoidance, and impaired executive control (Williams et al., 2007). Structural equation modeling (SEM) will be used to investigate the degree to which these proposed mechanisms contribute to both OGM (alone and in interaction) and depression (both directly and indirectly through their effect on OGM). Furthermore, the relationship between OGM and several candidate genes selected for their theoretical relevance to depression and memory processes will be investigated. If significant associations are detected, then SEM will be used to examine how the relevant genes may relate to the mechanisms of the CaR-FA-X model. Training activities include 1) the completion of course work in genetics, SEM, human memory and cognition, and human neuropsychology, 2) participation in summer workshops on SEM, molecular biology, and biomarker research, and 3) consultation with experts in the fields of OGM research, statistics, and genetics. These experiences will provide a strong foundation for the completion of both the proposed project and future cross-cutting research on risk factors for depression. The proposed research will provide empirical evidence that can inform current theoretical models and subsequent studies of this proposed risk factor for depression. The findings may also have implications for the clinical treatment of depression, as knowledge of the mechanisms that underlie OGM, and their effects on depression, could inform interventions. In addition, research on the relationship between OGM and genetic risk factors may increase understanding of how genes confer liability to depression, and further develop existing integrative profiles of biological and behavioral indicators of depression.

Public Health Relevance

An empirical investigation of the mechanisms of overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) may have important implications for the study and treatment of depression. Greater knowledge of the biological and behavioral markers underlying OGM-a proposed risk factor for depression-has implications for understanding the etiology and course of depression. Additionally, such knowledge may inform existing treatments for depression by identifying additional targets for intervention.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F12B-S (20))
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Rubio, Mercedes
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Northwestern University at Chicago
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Sumner, Jennifer A; Vrshek-Schallhorn, Suzanne; Mineka, Susan et al. (2014) Effects of the serotonin transporter polymorphism and history of major depression on overgeneral autobiographical memory. Cogn Emot 28:947-58
Sumner, Jennifer A; Mineka, Susan; Zinbarg, Richard E et al. (2014) Examining the long-term stability of overgeneral autobiographical memory. Memory 22:163-70
Sumner, Jennifer A; Mineka, Susan; Adam, Emma K et al. (2014) Testing the CaR-FA-X model: investigating the mechanisms underlying reduced autobiographical memory specificity in individuals with and without a history of depression. J Abnorm Psychol 123:471-86
Sumner, Jennifer A (2012) The mechanisms underlying overgeneral autobiographical memory: an evaluative review of evidence for the CaR-FA-X model. Clin Psychol Rev 32:34-48