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The Depressed Brain: An Evolutionary Systems Theory

Badcock, PB; Davey, CG; Whittle, S; Allen, NB; Friston, KJ; (2017) The Depressed Brain: An Evolutionary Systems Theory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences , 21 (3) pp. 182-194. 10.1016/j.tics.2017.01.005. Green open access

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Abstract

Major depression is a debilitating condition characterised by diverse neurocognitive and behavioural deficits. Nevertheless, our species-typical capacity for depressed mood implies that it serves an adaptive function. Here we apply an interdisciplinary theory of brain function to explain depressed mood and its clinical manifestations. Combining insights from the free-energy principle (FEP) with evolutionary theorising in psychology, we argue that depression reflects an adaptive response to perceived threats of aversive social outcomes (e.g., exclusion) that minimises the likelihood of surprising interpersonal exchanges (i.e., those with unpredictable outcomes). We suggest that psychopathology typically arises from ineffectual attempts to alleviate interpersonal difficulties and/or hyper-reactive neurobiological responses to social stress (i.e., uncertainty), which often stems from early experience that social uncertainty is difficult to resolve.

Type: Article
Title: The Depressed Brain: An Evolutionary Systems Theory
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.01.005
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2017.01.005
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Active Inference, Evolutionary Systems Theory, Depression, Free-Energy Principle, Major Depressive Disorder
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10057686
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