Attentional bias for negative, positive, and threat words in current and remitted depression

Hermien J. Elgersma, Ernst H. W. Koster, Lonneke A. van Tuijl, A. Hoekzema, Brenda W. J. H. Penninx, Claudi L. H. Bockting, Peter J. de Jong

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

18 Citaten (Scopus)
339 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this study was to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms in the maintenance of depression. We examined attentional bias (AB) for negative and positive adjectives and general threat words in strictly-defined clinical groups of participants with pure Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) without a history of anxiety disorders (AD), mixed MDD and AD, and remitted participants.
We investigated both stimulus specificity and time course of AB in these groups, adopting a cross-sectional design. Data were drawn from the large scale Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA), from which we selected all participants with pure current MDD without a history of AD (n = 29), all participants with current MDD and co-morbid AD(s) (n = 86), all remitted MDD participants (n = 294), and a comparison group without (a history of) MDD or ADs (n = 474). AB was measured with an Exogenous Cueing Task covering short
and long presentation times (500 and 1250 ms) and 4 stimulus types (negative, positive, threat, neutral).
Both traditional and trial level (dynamic) AB scores failed to show an AB for negative adjectives in participants with MDD or mixed MDD/AD. Specifically for long duration trials (1250 ms), remitted participants showed a larger AB traditional score (albeit the actual score still being negative) than the comparison group. The mixed MDD/AD group showed a higher trial-level AB score away from positive adjectives (1250 ms) than the comparisons. In addition, the mixed MDD/AD group showed higher and more variable trial-level AB scores away from short and towards longer presented general threat words together with a non-significant tendency to show less negative traditional AB scores for threat trials (500 ms) than the comparison group.
All in all, the findings do not corroborate the view that an AB towards negative or away from positive adjectives is critically involved in currently depressed individuals. Yet, the relatively high (less negative) AB score for negative adjectives in remitted individuals points to the possibility that an AB for negative information may be involved as a risk factor in the recurrence of MDD.
Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's23
Nummer van het tijdschrift10
StatusPublished - 31-okt-2018

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