New research shows memory training can help alleviate depression.For most people, certain words are linked to specific memories. For instance, hearing the word vacation might take you back to your honeymoon. This is a normal and completely healthy occurrence and it may be helping to protect people against depression.
A new study has found that people who are at risk of depression or are suffering with the condition, have a difficult time accessing specific memories from their own past. This makes it more difficult for them to solve problems and often forces them to focus on negative feelings or emotions.
Psychological scientists Hamid Neshat-Doost of the University of Isfahan, Iran, Laura Jobson of the University of East Anglia, Tim Dalgleish of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Medical Research Council, Cambridge and colleagues found that a memory training program called Memory Specificity Training improved people ability to recall past events and also helped alleviate the symptoms of depression.
In their research, they took 23 Afghani refugees who had lost their fathers in the war in Afghanistan. All of these people also showed signs of depression. At the start of the experiment, all of the subjects were given a memory test with 18 positive negative and neutral words. After that, half of the participants were given the Memory Specificity Training while the other half received no training at all.
After 5 weeks, the subjects were given the same memory test. They were also tested after 2 months. Those people who received the memory training gave more specific memories after the training than their untrained counterparts. The trained group also showed fewer signs of depression.
The researchers found that the lower levels of depression in the group with memory training could be accounted for by their new ability to more clearly recall past events.
This is great news for people suffering from depression because it suggests that a single treatment may improve their symptoms. While the memory work is a stand-alone treatment, it could also be combined with other treatments or replace some current depression remedies. The memory treatment could even help reduce the number of people who require medication for their depression.
While more research is required to better understand how memory and depression are linked, the authors of the study have concluded that, "including a brief training component that targets memory recall as an adjunct to cognitive behavioural therapy or prior therapy may have beneficial effects on memory recall and mood."