Brady D. Nelson, Ph.D.

Fellow in Child & Adolescent Depression

Project Details


Greg Hajcak, Ph.D.
Daniel N. Klein, Ph.D.


Stony Brook University


A Prospective Examination of Neural Emotional Reactivity and Risk for Depression


A Prospective Examination of Neural Emotional Reactivity and Risk for Depression

Project Summary

Adolescence is a high-risk period for the emergence of depression, and adolescent females relative to males are at 2-3 times greater risk for developing depression. Identifying neurobiological risk factors of depression has the potential to improve our understanding of disease etiology, assist in early prevention, and help tailor treatment. The proposed study will leverage a large longitudinal study of 330 10- to 16-year old adolescent females to examine a neurobiological predictor of depression. 

Several theoretical models have identified dysfunctional emotional reactivity as a core mechanism of depression. For example, the Emotion Context Insensitivity (ECI) model posits that depression is characterized by diminished positive and negative emotional reactivity. The late positive potential (LPP) is an event-related potential (ERP) component that is larger for emotional relative to neutral stimuli—and reflects sustained attention and elaborative processing of salient visual information. Recent evidence suggests that a reduced LPP may index risk for depression (based on a maternal history of depression) in children. 

This project will cross-sectionally examine the LPP in relation to adolescent depression and maternal history of depression, one of the best-known risk factors for depression. The hypothesis is that adolescent depression and increased depressive symptoms will be associated with a reduced LPP to emotional stimuli. The project also hypothesizes that maternal history of depression will be associated with a reduced LPP and that this effect will be independent of adolescents’ current depressive symptoms. The project will conclude by examining whether the LPP prospectively predicts changes in depression one year later.