Positive memory specificity is associated with reduced vulnerability to depression

Askelund, Adrian 
Schweizer, Susanne 
van Harmelen, Anne-Laura  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1108-2921

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Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Early life stress exposure increases risk for depression and has been proposed to sensitize the maturing psychophysiological stress system to stress in later life. In response to stress, positive memory activation has been found to dampen cortisol responses and improve mood in humans and to reduce depression-like behaviour in mice. We used path modelling to examine whether recalling specific positive memories predicts reduced vulnerability to depression (high morning cortisol and negative self-cognitions during low mood) in adolescents at risk due to early life stress (n = 427, age 14 years). We found that positive memory specificity was associated with lower morning cortisol and fewer negative self-cognitions during low mood over the course of one year. Moderated mediation analyses demonstrated that positive memory specificity was related to lower depressive symptoms through fewer negative self-cognitions in response to negative life events reported in the one-year interval. These findings indicate that recalling specific positive life experiences may be a resilience factor that helps in lowering depressive vulnerability in adolescents with a history of early life stress.

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Nature Human Behaviour
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Springer Nature
Royal Society (DH150176)
Royal Society (RGF/EA/180029)
Royal Society (RGF\R1\180064)
Wellcome Trust (074296/Z/04/Z)
This research was funded by the Aker Scholarship (A.D.A.), the Royal Society (A.L.v.H.; grant no. DH15017, grant no. RGF/EA/180029, grant no. RGF/R1/180064) and Wellcome Trust (S.S.; grant no. 209127/Z/17/Z). I.M.G. is funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award and declares consulting to Lundbeck.
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