Neural correlates of generation and inhibition of verbal association patterns in mood disorders

Camille Piguet, Martin Desseilles, Yann Cojan, Virginie Sterpenich, Alexandre Dayer, Gilles Bertschy, Patrik Vuilleumier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Thought disorders such as rumination or flight of ideas are frequent in patients with mood disorders, and not systematically linked to mood state. These symptoms point to anomalies in cognitive processes mediating the generation and control of thoughts; for example, associative thinking and inhibition. However, their neural substrates are not known. Method: To obtain an ecological measure of neural processes underlying the generation and suppression of spontaneous thoughts, we designed a free word association task during fMRI allowing us to explore verbal associative patterns in patients with mood disorders and matched controls. Participants were presented with emotionally negative, positive or neutral words, and asked to produce two words either related or unrelated to these stimuli. Results: Relative to controls, patients produced a reverse pattern of answer typicality for the related vs unrelated conditions. Controls activated larger semantic and executive control networks, as well as basal ganglia, precuneus and middle frontal gyrus. Unlike controls, patients activated fusiform gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus and medial prefrontal cortex for emotional stimuli. Conclusions: Mood disorder patients are impaired in automated associative processes, but prone to produce more unique/personal associations through activation of memory and self-related areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernsu146
Pages (from-to)978-986
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • fMRI
  • Free word association
  • Inhibition
  • Mood disorders
  • Thoughts

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