3 October 2018: A learning and memory model of major depression

Rivka Cohen
Department of Psychology
University of Pennsylvania

Memory processes prioritizing the activation of negative cognitions, including thoughts, images, and memories, have long been implicated in major depression. We introduce a model of major depression that characterizes the role of developmental history, emotional context, and retrieval processes in persistent emotional states. Building from the Context Maintenance and Retrieval (CMR) family of models, our theory characterizes how emotional attributes combine with other attributes within the cognitive system, how they are encoded and retrieved, and the influence of these processes on the persistence of emotional attributes within a person’s internal contextual state. The model presents a novel computational account of the development and maintenance of depression, as well as cognitive resilience factors and the time-course of recovery. Finally, the model accounts for the mechanisms underlying empirically validated psychotherapies and factors contributing to subsequent relapse.