Neuropsychodynamic Approach to Depression: Integrating Resting State Dysfunctions of the Brain and Disturbed Self-Related Processes

Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Jun 27;12:247. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00247. eCollection 2018.


A mechanism-based approach was developed focusing on the psychodynamic, psychological and neuronal mechanisms in healthy and depressed persons. In this integrative concept of depression, the self is a core dimension in depression. It is attributed to negative emotions (e.g., failure, guilt). The increased inward focus in depression is connected with a decreased environmental focus. The development of neuropsychodynamic hypotheses of the altered self-reference is based on the investigation of the emotional-cognitive interaction in depressed patients. It may be hypothesized that the increased negative self-attributions-as typical characteristics of an increased self-focus in depression-may result from altered neuronal activity in subcortical-cortical midline structures in the brain, especially from hyperactivity in the cortical-subcortical midline regions and hypoactivity in the lateral regions. The increased resting state activity in depression is especially associated with an increased resting state activity in the default mode network (DMN) and a dysbalance between DMN and executive network (EN) activity. Possible therapeutic consequences of the neuropsychodynamic approach to depression involve the necessary emotional attunement in psychotherapy of depressed patients and the adequate timing of therapeutic interventions. The hypotheses which have been developed in the context of the neuropsychodynamic model of depression may be used for more specific psychotherapeutic interventions, aiming at specific mechanisms of compensation and defence, which are related to the increased resting state activity and the disturbed resting state-stimulus-interaction.

Keywords: default mode network (DMN); depression; mechanism-based approach; neuropsychodynamic psychiatry; psychotherapy; resting state; self.