Many people with major depressive disorder (MDD) are ambivalent about medication or therapeutic relationships. Using simple self-guided psychological strategies is a promising approach to meet their needs. In this project, based on our previous pilot clinical trials, we propose to investigate the neurocognitive mechanisms of a novel web-based-app intervention which will be developed as part of an MRC-funded project with dedicated medical device and software engineering support, as well as a research assistant running the trial. After developing an app-based version of a previously developed self-guided self-blaming bias intervention where people were given strategies to tackle self-blame-related memories and thoughts, we propose to enroll 43 MDD patients (n=35 completers and a matched non-MDD control group for a cross-sectional comparison) in the active digital intervention arm. During year 1, the student will contribute to the design of the digital intervention, learn how to assess patients, and how to deliver psychological interventions. Recruitment will start after 12 months and complete after the first half of year 3. The last half of year 3 and the beginning of year 4 will be devoted to completing analyses and thesis/first-authored journal submissions investigating how the intervention changes its neurocognitive targets using previously developed and novel computerized tests of socio-emotional executive processes, self-blame-related action tendencies, socio-emotional memory overgeneralization and how MDD and control groups compare on these measures in three papers. The PhD student will acquire neuropsychological, psychotherapeutic and diagnostic skills, as well as experience in digital intervention design, mixed methods analysis and clinical trials.
Neurocognitive mechanisms of a novel digital memory reshaping intervention targeting self-blame and loss of interest in depression
Duan S, Valmaggia L, Fennema D, Moll J, Zahn R. Remote virtual reality assessment elucidates self-blame-related action tendencies in depression. J Psychiatr Res (2023); 161: 77-83. 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2023.02.031
Jaeckle, T., Williams, S. C. R., Barker, G. J., Basilio, R., Carr, E., Goldsmith, K., Colasanti, A., Giampietro, V., Cleare, A., Young, A. H., Moll, J., & Zahn, R. Self-blame in major depression: a randomised pilot trial comparing fMRI neurofeedback with self-guided psychological strategies. Psychol Med (2021); 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291721004797
Matcham, F., Simblett, S. K., Leightley, D., Dalby, M., Siddi, S., Haro, J. M., … & Wykes, T. (2022). The association between persistent cognitive difficulties and depression and functional outcomes in people with Major Depressive Disorder. Psychological Medicine, 1-11.
Simblett, S., Matcham, F., Siddi, S., Bulgari, V., di San Pietro, C. B., López, J. H., … & RADAR-CNS Consortium. (2019). Barriers to and facilitators of engagement with mHealth technology for remote measurement and management of depression: qualitative analysis. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 7(1), e11325.