Depression can cause memory problems, study finds

Distinguishing between similar memories may be difficult for those with depression

Sabrina Barr
Monday 19 March 2018 14:04 GMT
Campaigners called for an alert-style system to notify victims of stalking and domestic abuse
Campaigners called for an alert-style system to notify victims of stalking and domestic abuse

People who suffer from depression may have difficulty distinguishing between similar memories, a study has found.

Living with depression can lead to a number of issues, including sleep deprivation and increased levels of stress.

Researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah, United States decided to explore whether there is a correlation between depression and memory interference.

Memory interference occurs when an individual finds themselves unable to fully take in new information due to past memories or thoughts.

Professor Donald Shelton and Professor Brock Kirwan from the Department of Psychology at Brigham Young University carried out a pattern separation test with 98 adults.

The participants also had to fill in questionnaires that assessed their levels of depression and anxiety in addition to various aspects of their life such as the quality of their sleep and how much they exercise.

The researchers noted that those with higher depression scores were more likely to achieve lower scores on their pattern separation tests.

The pattern separation tests consisted of presenting the participants with a series of objects on a computer screen, some of which were familiar and others not.

Those with greater levels of depression struggled to differentiate between similar objects.

However, this doesn’t mean that they’re suffering from amnesia; rather that a few details of their memory could be missing as a result of poor mental health.

“There are two areas in your brain where you grow new brain cells,” explained Kirwan.

“One is the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.

“It turns out that this growth is decreased in cases of depression.”

A recent study by the University of Illinois has also revealed that those who try to suppress their negative emotions are able to reduce the impact of negative memories.

The researchers hope that their findings could lead to improved treatments for people with depression.

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