Positive Shifts in Emotion Evaluation following Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in Remitted Depressed Participants

Kate Williams, Rebecca Elliott, Thorsten Barnhofer, Roland Zahn, Ian Anderson

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Objectives: A combination of negatively biased information processing and a reduced ability to experience positive emotions can persist into remission from major depression (rMDD). Studies have shown that Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can increase self-reported positive emotions in rMDD participants; similar changes using neuropsychological tasks have not been shown. In this study we investigated neuropsychological change in emotional processing following MBCT in rMDD participants.
Methods: Seventy-three rMDD participants, 40 of whom received MBCT and 33 of whom continued with Treatment As Usual (TAU), and 42 never depressed participants took part; neither the TAU or never depressed participants received MBCT. All were assessed at baseline and immediately following MBCT or after an eight-week gap for those without active intervention. Participants completed emotion evaluation and face emotion recognition tasks with self-report measures (mood, mindfulness) at each session.
Results: Results showed an MBCT-specific shift in ratings from less negative to more positive emotion evaluations, which correlated with mindfulness practice and self-report mindfulness change. Both the MBCT and TAU groups showed a small increase in overall face emotion recognition accuracy compared with no change in never depressed participants.
Conclusions: These findings support a specific role for MBCT in encouraging more positive evaluations of life situations in those with previous depression rather than influencing lower-level processing of emotions. Results should be interpreted cautiously given that this was a non-randomised, preference choice trial.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 10 Oct 2020


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