What Your Relationship with Mom Says About Depression

It's all mom's fault! (Just kidding. Maybe.)

“Tell me about your mother.” It’s the almost-too-cliche-at-this-point mantra of every therapist, psychiatrist and psychologist in the book. But new research suggests they have good reason to probe.

Wired reports on a study in which researchers took 28 women—half of whom suffered from depression—and showed them photos of strangers, their friends, and their mothers. They wanted to see if viewing the images made any difference in brain activity. When the depressed and non-depressed subjects viewed the ones of strangers and friends, their activity (recorded using fMRI scans) measured about the same. But when the depressed women were shown pictures of their mothers, researchers documented significantly greater activity in the region of the brain responsible for social emotions—much greater activity than was found in their non-depressed peers. In fact, the results were so accurate that the researchers were able to determine with 90 percent accuracy which of the subjects were depressed just by looking at the scans. Crazy, right?

The research probably won’t translate into a diagnostic tool for depression anytime soon, since fMRI are costly to run. But the research could open doors to better understanding depression and, perhaps, its causes.

Not that I’m blaming Mom for everything, of course.