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Roehampton Psychologist’s research reveals a contributing factor for depression

It is mental health awareness week. Dr Ray Norbury from the Department of Psychology and his team conducted a study to find out why some people may be more susceptible for developing depression than others.

Posted: 19 May 2016

image for news story Roehampton Psychologist’s research reveals a contributing factor for depression
Dr Ray Norbury
In his study, Dr Norbury looked at healthy people who had never been depressed before, half were ‘night owls’, people who prefer to stay up late and wake late in the morning, and half ‘larks’, people who are early to bed and early to rise. It was found that night owls are more likely to identify a picture of a face as sad rather than happy and are more likely to remember negative words as compared to positive words.

Dr Norbury said “We know from large population samples that the prevalence of depression is higher among night owls. What we don't know is why. In our study we found that night owls are more likely to show a negative bias, which is a tendency to interpret ambiguous information negatively. This is important as many psychiatrists and psychologists believe that this type of bias plays a key role in the onset, maintenance and recurrence of depression. In other words this negative bias may contribute to the increased risk for depression reported in late chronotypes.”

The study lasted for six months and included eighty-six participants. Dr Norbury and his team, including PhD student Charlotte Horne, are currently using the University of Roehampton’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner to explore brain structure and function in owls and larks. The findings from this work may inform interventions to prevent the onset of depression in these vulnerable individuals.

The Department of Psychology at Roehampton offers undergraduate course in Psychology, Psychology and Counselling, and Therapeutic Psychology. In the Research Excellence Framework 2014, the leading national assessment of quality, 100% of the research we submitted was rated “world leading” or “internationally excellent” for its impact.

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