Objectives: A combination of negatively biased information processing and a reduced ability to experience positive emotions can persist into remission from major depression (rMDD). Studies have shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can increase self-reported positive emotions in rMDD participants; similar changes using neuropsychological tasks have not been shown. In this study, we investigated neuropsychological change in emotional processing following MBCT in rMDD participants. Methods: Seventy-three rMDD participants, 40 of whom received MBCT and 33 of whom continued with treatment as usual (TAU), and 42 never depressed participants took part; neither the TAU nor never depressed participants received MBCT. All were assessed at baseline and immediately following MBCT or after an 8-week gap for those without active intervention. Participants completed emotion evaluation and face emotion recognition tasks with self-report measures (mood, mindfulness) at each session. Results: Results showed an MBCT-specific shift in ratings from less negative to more positive emotion evaluations, which correlated with mindfulness practice and self-report mindfulness change. Both the MBCT and TAU groups showed a small increase in overall face emotion recognition accuracy compared with no change in never depressed participants. Conclusions: These findings support a specific role for MBCT in encouraging more positive evaluations of life situations in those with previous depression rather than influencing lower-level processing of emotions. Results should be interpreted cautiously given that this was a non-randomised, preference choice trial. Trial Registration: NCT02226042.
- Emotion processing
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
- Positive emotions
- Remitted major depression