Cognitive behavioral based group psychotherapy focusing on repetitive negative thinking: Decreased uncontrollability of rumination is related to brain perfusion increases in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

J Psychiatr Res. 2021 Apr:136:281-287. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.02.011. Epub 2021 Feb 13.


Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is a core process underlying various psychiatric disorders. 'Uncontrollability of rumination (UOR)' is one the most maladaptive factors of rumination, but little is known on how cognitive behavioral focused RNT psychotherapy may alter brain activity. In a subsample of 47 patients suffering from RNT who also underwent brain imaging (registered RCT trial NCT01983033), we evaluated the effect of cognitive behavioral based group psychotherapy (CBGP) (n = 25) as compared to a delayed treatment control group (DTCG) (n = 22) on frontolimbic brain perfusion with a focus on UOR. This RNT construct was measured using the subscale 'uncontrollability' of the Dutch version of the Rumination on Sadness Scale (LARSS-U). Brain perfusion was assessed with arterial spin labeling (ASL)-fMRI. LARSS-U scale scores significantly decreased in the CBGP cohort whereas no significant changes emerged in the DTCG group. Compared to the DTCG, this decrease on UOR in the CBGP group was related to significant perfusion increases in the left (dorsolateral) prefrontal cortex, part of the executive network. Besides the fact that CBGP significantly reduced RNT, this attenuation of uncontrollable ruminative thoughts was related to brain perfusion increases areas documented to be involved in the top down control of adaptive emotion regulation and the inhibition of ruminative processes.

Keywords: ASL; Group psychotherapy; LARSS Uncontrollability; Repetitive negative thinking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Perfusion
  • Pessimism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires