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Surprising Science

For the Depressed, Mothers Matter More

When depressed individuals were placed in an fMRI scan and shown photos of their mother, their reactions were much stronger than healthy people. The technique could aid in diagnosis.

What’s the Latest Development?

Depressed people react more strongly to photos of their mother than healthy individuals, according to new research. When individuals diagnosed with depression were placed in fMRI machines and shown photos of mom, scientists saw stronger reactions in the left anterior paracingulate gyrus, a brain area that plays an important role in the regulation of social emotion. Images of other family members provoked smaller responses. The technique may provide scientists with an important diagnostic tool.

What’s the Big Idea?

If images of mom provoke bigger emotional responses than other members of the family, it may go to show that our relationship with our mother stands in a class of its own. Despite Freud’s creativity in many areas now debunked by psychological science, he seems proven right (once again) when we look at the big picture. “Although these subjects are adults, the maternal relationship remains a window into the murk of their mental illness, as the Viennese doctor surmised long ago.”

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