Social cognition in major depressive disorder: A new paradigm?
Social cognition refers to the brain mechanisms by which we process social information about other humans and ourselves. Alterations in interpersonal and social functioning are common in major depressive disorder, though only poorly addressed by current pharmacotherapies. Further standardized tests, such as depression ratings or neuropsychologic tests, used in routine practice provide very little information on social skills, schemas, attributions, stereotypes and judgments related to social interactions. In this article, we review recent literature on how healthy human brains process social decisions and how these processes are altered in major depressive disorder. We especially focus on interactive paradigms (e.g., game theory based tasks) that can reproduce daily life situations in laboratory settings. The evidences we review, together with the rich literature on the protective role of social networks in handling stress, have implications for developing more ecologically-valid biomarkers and interventions in order to optimize functional recovery in depressive disorders.