Toronto researchers using MRI have found that the way formerly depressed people’s brains react to sad movies is a reliable predictor of their likelihood to relapse. They found that the areas of the brain that lit up when the formerly depressed people watched a sad movie corresponded with whether the patients ultimately needed more treatment. The patients’ brains were scanned while they watch two neutral film scenes, and then two sad scenes (from the films “The Champ” and “Terms of Endearment”).
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Researcher Zindel Segal said that the different brain activity might show that the patients who were more likely to relapse were internalizing sadness, while those likely to maintain their recoveries were observing the films more as sensory experiences. “Even though people have recovered from depression, they can still be vulnerable, or a little bit at risk, if they experience sadness or sad states of mind. How they handle those brief sad moods has a lot to do with whether they relapse,” he said.