The way in which emotion is represented and processed in the human brain is an expanding area of research and has key implications for how we understand and potentially treat affective disorders such as depression. Characterizing the effects of pharmacological manipulations of key neurotransmitter systems can also help reveal the neurochemical underpinnings of emotional processing and how common antidepressant drugs may work in the treatment of depression and anxiety. This approach has revealed that depression is associated with both neural and behavioural biases towards negative over positive stimuli. Evidence from pharmacological challenge studies suggests that antidepressant treatment acts to normalize these biases early on in treatment, resulting in patients experiencing the world in a more positive way, improving their mood over time. This model is supported by evidence from both pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. The unique perspective on antidepressant treatment offered by this approach provides some insights into individual response to treatment, as well as novel approaches to drug development.
Keywords: depression; emotional processing; neuroimaging.
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.