BACKGROUND: Subjects recovered from depression have a substantial risk for recurrence of depression, suggesting persistent abnormalities in brain activity. AIMS: To test whether women recovered from depression show abnormal brain activity in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a conditioning paradigm with a noxious pain stimulus. METHOD: Ten unmedicated women who had recovered from major depression and eight healthy control women each received either noxious hot or non-noxious warm stimuli, the onset of which was signalled by a specific coloured light during 3-tesla echo planar imaging-based fMRI. RESULTS: Similar patterns of brain activation were found during painful stimulation for both patients and healthy controls. However, relative to healthy controls, subjects recovered from depression showed a reduced response in the cerebellum during anticipation of the noxious stimulus compared with anticipation of the non-noxious stimulus. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that abnormal cerebellar function could be a marker of vulnerability to recurrent depression. This could provide a new target for therapeutic interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science

Publication Date





411 - 415


University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK.


Cerebellum, Humans, Pain, Disease Susceptibility, Recurrence, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Physical Stimulation, Depressive Disorder, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Adult, Female, Hot Temperature