Date of Award

Summer 8-9-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Emily A. P. Haigh

Second Committee Member

Michael A. Robbins

Third Committee Member

Shannon K. McCoy

Additional Committee Members

Fayeza S. Ahmed

Kate Hanley White


Major depressive disorder is marked by high rates of relapse and recurrence. Research has suggested that formerly depressed individuals exhibit dysphoric mood or dysfunctional beliefs that are similar to currently depressed individuals while in a dysphoric, but not euthymic, mood and these changes prospectively predict relapse and recurrence over time.While there is still disagreement as to whether dysfunctional thinking or dysphoric mood characterizes remitted depression, these changes appear to be mood state dependent, or undetectable until activated by sadness. These findings have led to the hypothesis that cardiovascular functioning may also be mood state dependent in remitted depression; however, this has not yet been adequately assessed. The few studies (Bylsma et al., 2015; Rottenberg et al., 2005b; Yaroslavsky et al., 2013, 2014) that have investigated cardiovascular reactivity in response to sadness in formerly depressed individuals have methodological issues. No studies have examined a wide range of cardiovascular measures to assess cardiovascular reactivity to and recovery from a sad mood in an exclusively formerly depressed sample.

The proposed study aimed to characterize cognitive, mood, and cardiovascular reactivity to and recovery from a sad mood in individuals with a history of depression compared to healthy, never depressed individuals. Participants (N = 132) included formerly depressed and healthy control individuals. Following screening, participants completed self-report measures of depressive and anxiety symptoms and a structured clinical interview. Eligible participants were randomly assigned to an experimental paradigm condition. During the experimental paradigm, participants were connected to psychophysiological equipment, participated in a sad or neutral music and autobiographical recall mood induction, and completed self-report measures of dysfunctional thoughts and dysphoric mood pre- and post-mood induction. Results suggested that mood, rather than cognitive, reactivity in response to a transient sad mood is present in formerly depressed individuals. Additionally, results suggested that reduced heart period recovery, rather than reactivity, following the induction of a transient sad mood is present in formerly depressed individuals. Results indicated that formerly depressed individuals exhibit increased sadness and impaired heart period recovery in response to a transient sad mood, which may be potentially malleable risk factors for depressive relapse and recurrence.