Colloquium – Norm Farb – Uncomfortably Numb: Depression Vulnerability as Sensory Avoidance and its Potential Resolution
Mar 2, 2023
2:30PM to 4:00PM
Date(s) - 02/03/2023
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm
Title: Uncomfortably Numb: Depression Vulnerability as Sensory Avoidance and its Potential Resolution
Bio: Norman Farb, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, where he directs the Regulatory and Affective Dynamics laboratory (www.radlab.zone). He studies the psychology of well-being, focusing on mental habits, such as how we think about ourselves and interpret our emotions. He is particularly interested in why people differ in their resilience to stress, depression, and anxiety. He is currently exploring online training to support wellbeing, and neuroimaging to understand how emotional reactions predict mental health over the lifespan.
Abstract: Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. While initial episodes of Depression may serve as understandable responses to devastating life events, later episodes seem to be largely promoted via activation of internal schema, as though falling into depression has become a sort of cognitive expertise. What is driving this increased vulnerability? Contrary to general conceptions of depression as a state of being overwhelmed and flooded with negative emotion, emerging neuroimaging data suggests that depression vulnerability may actually be driven by stress-evoked sensorimotor inhibition, consistent with subjective reports of numbing, anhedonia, and psychomotor slowing. Drawing neuroimaging evidence from both a distressed community sample (N=36) and a prospective trial of participants with remitted depression (N=85), Prof. Farb will discuss an emerging model of depression vulnerability as a deeply entrenched, stress-reactive, sensory avoidance habit. Sense “foraging” practices may therefore provide a methodology for extinguishing depressogenic habits, with emerging efficacy from areas such as mindfulness training, exercise, cognitive therapy, psychedelics, art therapy, and exposure to nature.