Crushing guilt is a common symptom of depression, an observation that dates back to Sigmund Freud. Now, a new study finds a communication breakdown between two guilt-associated brain regions in people who have had depression. This so-called “decoupling” of the regions may be why depressed people take small faux pas as evidence that they are complete failures. …

Zahn and his colleagues focused their research on the subgenual cingulated cortex and its adjacent septal region, a region deep in the brain that has been linked to feelings of guilt. Previous studies have found abnormalities in this region, dubbed the SCSR, in people with depression. …

The resulting scans showed that while the SCSR and the anterior temporal lobe activate together in both guilt and indignation in healthy brains, the brains of the once-depressed individuals functioned quite differently. During feelings of indignation, the SCSR-anterior temporal lobe linkage worked fine. But during feelings of guilt, the regions failed to sync up so neatly.