Introduction: Depression can be characterized by rumination that is featured by spontaneity and perseveration of internally oriented thoughts. At the same time, depressed subjects complain about abnormal slowness and lack of power/energy in their thoughts, suggesting abnormal "thought dynamics."The relationship between rumination and thought dynamics in depression remains unclear, though. Method: We investigated thought dynamics and rumination in healthy control, major depressive disorder (MDD), and depressed bipolar disorder (BD) subjects. The dynamics in the spontaneous shift between internally and externally oriented thoughts were measured by a novel method of continuous experience sampling whose time series was subjected to power and frequency analyses. Subjects filled out the Beck Depression Inventory-II and Ruminative Response Scale questionnaires to evaluate current depressive symptoms and ruminative responses to negative affect. The methods used to analyze data included χ, Pearson correlation, ANOVA, and partial correlation. Results: Our main findings are: (i) increased number and longer duration of internally oriented thought contents in MDD and BD; (ii) reduced thought dynamics with slower frequency (calculated in Hz) and decreased power (power spectral density) in shifting between internally and externally oriented thoughts, especially in MDD and, less strongly, in BD subjects; and (iii) power spectral density as a dimension of thought dynamics is related to brooding rumination with depression severity explaining high degrees of their variance. Conclusion: Our results show slow frequency and low power in the internal-external thought dynamic of acute MDD and depressed BD. Together with its close relation to depression severity and rumination, our findings highlight the key importance of abnormal dynamics on the cognitive level of depression.
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