Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Lisa J. Rapport


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is associated with decrements in facial emotion processing (FEP). Previous studies investigating the neural substrates of these decrements have often reported hyperactivity of emotion processing circuitry. Neural circuitry supporting FEP has been shown to be different between healthy men and women, and between young and elder adults. However, no prior studies have investigated how gender and aging affect emotion processing circuitry in individuals with MDD. The present study aimed to investigate the influence of gender and aging on emotion processing circuitry in MDD. One hundred-ten adults, grouped into subgroups according to MDD status, gender, and age group, completed a facial emotion processing task (FEPT) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Interactions were revealed between MDD status, gender, and age group in a number of brain regions important to emotion processing. These regions included the inferior, middle, and superior frontal gyrus, cingulate, and putamen. Within younger adults, women with MDD exhibited hyperactivation of these regions compared to healthy control (HC) women, consistent with prior research. Young men with MDD, however, exhibited hypoactivity of these same regions compared to young HC men. Within elder adults, women with MDD exhibited hypoactivity of emotion processing regions compared to HC women, whereas men with MDD exhibited hyperactivity of these regions compared to HC men. These findings underscore the importance of attendance to these interactions in studies of emotion processing in MDD, and suggest that gender- and age- specific mechanisms underlie dysfunction in emotion processing circuitry in MDD.