Poster Session F, Tuesday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
A Pilot Study on Mirror Neuron Functioning and the Social Impairments Observed in Depression
Michael Widdowson1, Christina Kim1, Yuzhou Tong1, Crystal Inacay1, Fiza Singh2, Jaime A. Pineda1; 1Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, 2Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego
The discovery of mirror neurons in primates and the mirror neuron system (MNS) in humans has provided the basis for how biological agents might understand the emotions of others by integrating action and perceptual networks in the brain. In particular, social “mirroring” has been shown to be abnormal in certain psychiatric disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. There is growing evidence to suggest that MNS abnormalities might exist in depressive disorders. Our pilot study explored the relationship between social functioning (empathy, theory of mind, and emotion recognition) and MNS activity, as indexed by the suppression of mu rhythms (MS), in depressive symptoms. We hypothesized that symptom severity would correlate with reduced social functioning, and decreased MS, implying reduced MNS function. Thirty-two subjects, 18-25 years old, from the University of California, San Diego were recruited. Subjects completed Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI) and were assigned to two groups, non-depressed (ND, BDI score: 0-13) or depressed (D, BDI score: 14-28). Subjects completed self-report questionnaires (STAI, IRI, ECR-R), tasks (Dot Probe, TASIT), and performed a modified version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET). Scalp EEG was recorded during RMET and resting state (RS). Depressive symptoms negatively correlated with social cognition (TASIT: r=-0.52, p=0.005), empathy (IRI-EC: r=-0.37, p=0.049) and perspective taking (IRI-PT: R=-0.37, p=0.048). In addition, a correlation was found between depressive symptoms and interhemispheric midbrain mu wave asymmetry during RS eyes-closed. This implies there is aberrant somatosensory mu rhythm activity with greater depressive symptoms, implicating abnormal MNS functioning in depression.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Other