Researchers at the Center studied how rumination affects mental health and well-being. Rumination, or focus on and repetitive thinking about symptoms and causes of distress, is an important risk factor for depression and other psychological disorders. Most people ruminate after a stressful event, and this is probably adaptive, but for some individuals it can become harmful, leading to symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.
In a series of research studies, Center scientists measured people’s responses to a negative, stressful event by assessing cognitive processing after the event. Researchers predicted that individuals with a tendency to ruminate would demonstrate greater biases of attention towards information about the stressor, suggesting they have difficulty letting go of the negative memory. This difficulty letting go could be what underlies their tendency to ruminate, and might also translate into the persistent negative emotion and cognitive processing difficulties seen in depression and other affective disorders. The group hoped these studies would shed light on the cognitive and, ultimately, neural processes underlying harmful ruminative thought.