The goal of the proposed study is to study the neural basis of aspects of self and social cognition - negative self appraisals and elevated attention to negative emotional social signals - that are highly relevant to understanding the development of adolescent depressive disorders. Persistently negative self appraisal and elevated attention to negative emotional social signals, (e.g. negative facial expressions) are key processes that denote risk for depressive disorders across the lifespan. These processes are particularly relevant to understanding risk for depression in adolescence, because this is a period during which there is rapid transformation in self appraisals and interpersonal social functioning as part of the key developmental task of forming a positive and coherent self representation. Suboptimal resolution of this developmental task is linked to onset and recurrence of depressive disorders and risks for suicide in adolescence. Therefore, understanding the neural basis of negative self appraisals and attention to negative facial expressions in adolescent depression will provide valuable insights into specific neural mechanisms of depression during this vulnerable developmental period to guide intervention strategies. Furthermore, this research will also help identify objective, neurobiological markers of adolescent depressive disorders that can be used in the future to detect those adolescents who may be most at risk of future depression or who are on a trajectory to a recurrent course of the illness.
A critical goal of public mental health is to identify adolescents that are at high risk for chronic lifetime depression. The aim of the current proposal is to examine patterns of abnormal brain function involved in negative self and social cognition in depressed adolescents. Identifying these patterns of abnormal brain function could be used to detect depressed adolescents who are at heightened risk for chronic lifetime depression in order to inform new prevention and treatment strategies.
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