“Nice Brains Finish Last” reports on a study that found that “pro-social” people, who are highly attuned to fairness and inequity, have a more active amygdala. In a study published in Nature Human Behavior, these people were found to have a higher frequency of depression symptoms, as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory, then “individualist” personality types (people assessed to have egotistical and selfish traits).
The BDI findings were significant at two weeks, and also at one year. The researchers hypothesize that “nicer people” are more prone to depression because they are more likely to experience empathy, guilt, and stress in response to perceived inequity. They also theorized that this “emotional sensitivity” is linked to powerful brain parts that may contribute to depression symptoms.
The good news is that researchers also theorize that it is possible to engage other parts of the brain, particularly the pre-frontal cortex, that can moderate the amygdala activity for the “pro-socials.” They advocate psychotherapy as a source of “training higher brain-level processes” to counter depression. They conclude, “Through psychotherapy, one can likely have it all: a core sensitivity to inequity that can drive kind behavior, and the strength to keep these emotions in check to fight depression.”