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Pupil Response to Negative Facial Expressions Can Foretell Depression Relapse Risk: Study

The eyes are often referred to as the windows to the soul as they can rightly predict the mental state of an individual. In a deeper context, apertures of the eyes offer a glimpse into the mind of a person, say studies. Pupil dilation correlates with stimulation so consistently that scientists often use pupil size to probe a wide range of psychological phenomena. According to a recent study by the Binghamton University, State University of New York, pupil dilation, in reaction to negative emotional faces, can predict the relapse risk in depressed patients. The study, titled “Pupillary reactivity to negative stimuli prospectively predicts recurrence of major depressive disorder in women,” aimed to examine whether physiological reactivity to emotional stimuli, assessed via pupil dilation, served as a biological marker to understand the risk for depression relapse among individuals with a history of depression. “The study focuses on trying to identify certain markers of depression risk using measures that are readily accessible, reliable and less expensive. It is something we can put in any doctor's office that gives us a quick and easy objective measure of risk,” said lead author Anastacia Kudinova, a Ph.D. student. The researchers inducted 57 women with major depressive disorder (MDD). When they recorded their change in pupil dilation while responding to anger, sadness, happiness and neutral faces, the researchers found that the women’s pupillary reactivity to negative (sad or angry faces) predicted MDD recurrence and not positive stimuli prospectively. Irrespective of the degree of reactivity, whether it is a high and low reactivity to angry faces, both high and low reactivity could be a marker and could predict risk for MDD recurrence, the researchers said. It can be a convenient and inexpensive method to help women at risk


The researchers said the findings, published in the Psychophysiology in November 2016, could help clinicians provide a convenient and inexpensive method to predict which of the at-risk women have a higher propensity to experience depression recurrence. Thus, the disrupted physiological response to negative stimuli indexed via pupillary dilation could serve as an infallible physiological marker of MDD risk. Unearthing the results was also not very easy and it required quite a bit of digging into the process for the researchers. “It’s a bit complicated because different patterns of findings were found for pupil reactivity to angry versus sad faces. Specifically, really high or really low pupil dilation to angry faces was associated with increased risk whereas only low dilation to sad faces was associated with risk (high dilation to sad faces was actually protective),� said Brandon Gibb, a professor of psychology at the Binghamton University and director of the Mood Disorders Institute and Center for Affective Science. Nevertheless, the findings will help predict relapse among patients of depression who had undergone treatment. This could lead to a better prevention plan and could be more helpful for patients. Dealing with depression Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2015, nearly 16.1 million adults aged 18 or older (6.7 percent) in the U.S. had at least one MDD in the past year. However, the disorder is treatable. But the problem of relapse belittles the treatment programs they attended earlier. Hence, it is important for the treatment programs to be comprehensive which offer long-term recovery and shield patients from any possible relapse. If a loved one is suffering from depression and you are scouting for a depression treatment center in Texas, contact the Texas Depression Treatment Help. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-827-0282 for assistance regarding the best Texas depression treatment centers where recovery would be complete, barely leaving any chance for relapse.

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Pupil response to negative facial expressions can foretell depression relapse risk study