Johannes MICHALAK1, Nikolaus F. TROJE2, Thomas HEIDENREICH3
1Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
2Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada
3University of Applied Sciences, Esslingen, Germany
According to embodiment theories, the experience of emotional states affects somatovisceral and motoric systems, whereas the experience of bodily states affects methods by which emotional information is processed. In the light of the embodiment framework, we proposed that formerly depressed individuals with a high risk of depressive relapse would display deviations in the way they walk, which might then play a role in the escalating process of depressive relapse. Moreover, we proposed that training in mindful body awareness during mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) might have a normalizing effect on gait patterns. Gait patterns of 23 formerly depressed outpatients were compared to those of 29 never-depressed control participants. Also, gait patterns of formerly depressed patients were measured before and after MBCT to assess changes in patterns. A Fourier-based description of walking data served as the basis for the analysis of gait parameters. Before MBCT, gaits of formerly depressed patients were characterized by reduced walking speed and reduced vertical movements of the upper body. After MBCT, walking speed and lateral swaying movements of the upper body were normalized, and a trend towards normalization of vertical head movements was observed. It was concluded that MBCT has a normalizing effect on gait patterns, thus displaying not only cognitive, but also “embodied” effects.
Keywords: embodiment, gait, major depression, mindfulness, relapse prevention