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17 July 2023

The finger of blame in depression and the brain

Professor Roland Zahn delivered the eighth inaugural lecture of the 2022/23 IoPPN Inaugural Lecture Series, entitled 'The finger of blame in depression and the brain' on Thursday 29th June 2023 to a packed audience at the Wolfson Lecture Theatre.

Roland Zahn inaugural
(left to right) Professor Trudie Chalder, Professor Roland Zahn, Professor Allan Young

Roland Zahn is Professor of Mood Disorders & Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London and Deputy Lead of the Psychosis and Mood Disorders Theme at the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre. He is co-director of the Centre for Affective Disorders and co-programme lead of the MSc in Affective Disorders

Professor Zahn's work has been crucial to improving our understanding of the mechanisms of excessive self-blame in depression and how the brain represents social knowledge. He led a series of studies identifying the first neurocognitive mechanism explaining excessive self-blame and self-worthlessness in major depressive disorder. His current work on the NeSPRED project aims to find better ways to predict and understand the risk of future depressive episodes via psychological tests of self-blame, including Virtual Reality-based measures, and brain scans. This forms the basis for novel neurocognitive treatments.

Professor Allan Young opened the lecture, saying: “as well as being a top academic in the fields of psychiatry and neurology and the neuroscientific bridge between the two, Roland is a very much valued clinical colleague”.

I am very grateful to all PhD students, postdocs, collaborators, mentors, participants and MSc Affective Disorders students and colleagues, as well as funders and family who have supported my research and education over the last 29 years since starting my doctoral research training.

Professor Roland Zahn, Professor of Mood Disorders & Cognitive Neuroscience, King's IoPPN

Professor Zahn's family was an early inspiration to his career: his uncle's experiences of mental health stigma for intellectual disability, his grandfather's work to support shell-shocked world war I soldiers with hypnotherapy and his father's nomination for a Nobel prize. Roland studied medicine at the Universities of Heidelberg and Aachen in Germany and completed his specialist training in general psychiatry and cognitive behavioural psychotherapy at Freiburg University. He has worked in specialist services for affective disorders and neurocognitive disorders at South and Central Manchester University Hospitals.

Since joining King's Health partners, he has been an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. After previously running a mood disorders clinic in primary care following the consultation-liaison model, he started a mood clinic within our King's Student Mental Health Services in 2022 and is continuing his role as a consultant psychiatrist in the National Service for Affective Disorders at the Maudsley Hospital, running the Vagus Nerve Stimulation clinic. His clinical expertise is in treatment-resistant affective disorders, as well as differential diagnosis and treatment of cognitive and organic affective disorders.

Professor Trudie Chalder, Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy closed the lecture and delivered the vote of thanks, saying:

I’d like to thank Roland for delivering such an erudite lecture on the nature of blame. The devil is in the detail when it comes to understanding complex problems such as depression, so Roland’s detailed approach helps us to understand and ultimately treat the symptoms, cognitions and emotions (whether they are one and the same or not) associated with depression and anxiety. He has shown us that by targeting very specific aspects of depression i.e., blame that improvements in global depression can occur quite quickly. It’s been such a pleasure Roland; you are such a wonderful colleague and a shining example of how to remain connected (pun intended!) whilst doing such wonderful work.

Professor Trudie Chalder, Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, King’s IoPPN

To view previous lectures and to find out about upcoming lectures in the Inaugural Lectures series, please visit Inaugural Lectures.

In this story

Roland Zahn

Professor of Mood Disorders & Cognitive Neuroscience

Trudie Chalder

Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy

Allan Young

Head of School, Academic Psychiatry