Neural mechanisms of the cognitive model of depression

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2011 Jul 6;12(8):467-77. doi: 10.1038/nrn3027.


In the 40 years since Aaron Beck first proposed his cognitive model of depression, the elements of this model--biased attention, biased processing, biased thoughts and rumination, biased memory, and dysfunctional attitudes and schemas--have been consistently linked with the onset and maintenance of depression. Although numerous studies have examined the neural mechanisms that underlie the cognitive aspects of depression, their findings have not been integrated with Beck's cognitive model. In this Review, we identify the functional and structural neurobiological architecture of Beck's cognitive model of depression. Although the mechanisms underlying each element of the model differ, in general the negative cognitive biases in depression are facilitated by increased influence from subcortical emotion processing regions combined with attenuated top-down cognitive control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological