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BACKGROUND: Depression is associated with neural abnormalities in emotional processing. AIMS: This study explored whether these abnormalities underlie risk for depression. METHOD: We compared the neural responses of volunteers who were at high and low-risk for the development of depression (by virtue of high and low neuroticism scores; high-N group and low-N group respectively) during the presentation of fearful and happy faces using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). RESULTS: The high-N group demonstrated linear increases in response in the right fusiform gyrus and left middle temporal gyrus to expressions of increasing fear, whereas the low-N group demonstrated the opposite effect. The high-N group also displayed greater responses in the right amygdala, cerebellum, left middle frontal and bilateral parietal gyri to medium levels of fearful v. happy expressions. CONCLUSIONS: Risk for depression is associated with enhanced neural responses to fearful facial expressions similar to those observed in acute depression.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





139 - 145


Adolescent, Adult, Amygdala, Cerebral Cortex, Depressive Disorder, Emotions, Facial Expression, Fear, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Personality Assessment, Risk Factors, Young Adult