Teen brains with depression show heightened sensitivity to parental criticism


In a current article printed in Psychological Medicine, researchers look at affective and neural responses to parental suggestions in adolescents with melancholy.

Research: Sticky criticism? Affective and neural responses to parental criticism and praise in adolescents with depression. Picture Credit score: fizkes / Shutterstock.com


Melancholy, which is characterised by unfavorable self-views and low shallowness, is a critical psychological well being concern that’s at present estimated to have an effect on 280 million folks worldwide.

A number of totally different areas throughout the mind are differentially affected by melancholy. For instance, social saliency-related mind areas, subgenual ACC (sgACC), and anterior insula (AI) set off higher neural reactivity to unfavorable stimuli in adults and adolescents with melancholy.

Comparatively, criticism results in elevated neural exercise in AI, ACC, and social cognition-related mind areas, together with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (PFC), temporal poles, and inferior frontal gyrus in adolescents.

In wholesome people, suggestions elicits temper responses relying on valence and consistency with self-views. For instance, criticism inconsistent with self-views can elicit a unfavorable temper in these people. Nevertheless, in comparison with wholesome people, adolescents with melancholy, who are sometimes extra delicate to rejection, really feel worse after criticism, no matter their self-views. 

Melancholy additionally results in unfavorable biases in cognitive processes, akin to consideration, reminiscence, and interpretation. Thus, adolescents with melancholy react to parental criticism extra bluntly, particularly when it doesn’t match their self-views.

In regards to the research

The Relations and Feelings in Mother or father-Adolescent Interplay Analysis (RE-PAIR) research investigated the interaction between parent-adolescent interactions by evaluating adolescents between 11 and 17 years of age with dysthymia (DEP) or main depressive dysfunction (MDD) to wholesome controls.

The standards for MDD or DEP analysis was primarily based on the Kiddie-Schedule for Affective Problems and Schizophrenia-Current and Lifetime Model (Okay-SADS-PL). Different inclusion standards included adolescents who lately began secondary faculty, lived with their dad and mom and spoke Dutch fluently. 

Households with DEP or MDD adolescents had been recruited for the present research by way of psychological well being clinics and social media. After enrollment, these households participated in a laboratory session, accomplished an ecological momentary evaluation for 14 days, and subsequently underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Throughout the lab session, adolescents and their dad and mom rated 49 suggestions phrases from very unfavorable to impartial to very optimistic. These phrases had been additionally rated on their applicability to the adolescent’s character, by which a rating of 1 indicated ‘in no way relevant’ to a rating of 5 or ‘very a lot relevant.’

After listening to every suggestions phrase, adolescents rated their present temper from one or ‘very unfavorable’ to seven or ‘very optimistic’ in the course of the MRI session. Earlier than and after these duties, adolescents additionally accomplished visible analog scales (VAS) to price their shallowness, unhappiness, leisure, and irritability ranges.

The researchers additionally decided whether or not adolescents with melancholy exhibited blunted or potentiated unfavorable temper to parental criticism and irregular neural exercise in mind areas of the salience community, together with AI and sgACC, in addition to these concerned in social cognition, such because the temporoparietal junction (TPJ).

Research findings

A complete of 63 wholesome and 22 depressed adolescents participated within the present research. Depressed adolescents receiving parental criticism exhibited elevated exercise within the temporal pole, which is concerned in extracting social information.

Elevated exercise was additionally noticed within the hippocampus, fusiform gyrus, and parahippocampal gyrus, all of that are mind areas essential for encoding episodic reminiscence. Comparatively, receiving parental reward was related to decreased exercise in the correct visible cortex in adolescents with melancholy as in comparison with wholesome controls.

In each research teams, temper elevated when reward was extra relevant; nonetheless, applicability didn’t modulate neural responses. When criticism was extra relevant, adolescents with melancholy exhibited smaller will increase in temper. Notably, dad and mom of depressed adolescents seen their youngsters much less positively.

Depressed adolescents additionally recalled extra unfavorable than optimistic suggestions phrases, thus suggesting that parental criticism extra strongly affected these people than wholesome controls. That is per earlier observations, thus suggesting unfavorable reminiscence and a spotlight biases in adolescents with melancholy.

No matter melancholy standing, parental reward enhanced adolescents’ temper to a higher extent when it was per the kid’s self-views. Thus, figuring out character traits that adolescents worth about themselves could assist uncover interventions to enhance their temper. Moreover, offering psycho-education concerning the results and neural states of adolescents with melancholy may assist dad and mom higher interpret the potential causes of sure behaviors. 

Adolescents might additionally be taught to adapt and talk their ideas and emotions to their dad and mom. Dad and mom might work in the direction of delivering constructive criticism in an effort to scale back its unfavorable impact and foster a optimistic household atmosphere. 


Adolescents with DEP and MDD look like notably susceptible to parental criticism, as these people exhibited elevated sgACC and hippocampus exercise after listening to parental criticism and recalled essential suggestions longer afterward. Sadly, these youngsters additionally skilled a much less optimistic influence of parental reward. 

Dad and mom and clinicians ought to turn into extra conscious of the vigilant profile of DEP or MDD adolescents by way of psycho-education. Moreover, dad and mom are suggested to actively establish, acknowledge, and worth baby traits that might facilitate the event of a optimistic self-view. Early intervention might additionally attenuate depressive signs at illness onset.

Future longitudinal research are wanted to judge people from early childhood for neural sensitivity to melancholy and different neuropsychiatric situations.

Journal reference:

  • Van Houtum, L., Wever, M., Van Schie, C., et al. (2023). Sticky criticism? Affective and neural responses to parental criticism and reward in adolescents with melancholy. Psychological Medication 1-10. doi:10.1017/S0033291723002131
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