Time course of selective attention in clinically depressed young adults: an eye tracking study.

Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, A8000, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Behaviour Research and Therapy (Impact Factor: 3.85). 08/2008; 46(11):1238-43. DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2008.07.004
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Depressed individuals display biased attention for emotional information when stimuli are presented for relatively "long" (e.g., 1s) durations. The current study examined whether attentional biases are sustained over a much longer period. Specifically, clinically depressed and never depressed young adults simultaneously viewed images from four emotion categories (sad, threat, positive, neutral) for 30s while line of visual gaze was assessed. Depressed individuals spent significantly more time viewing dysphoric images and less time viewing positive images than their never depressed counterparts. Time course analyses indicated that these biases were maintained over the course of the trial. Results suggest that depressed participants' attentional biases for dysphoric information are sustained for relatively long periods even when other emotional stimuli are present. Mood congruent information-processing biases appear to be a robust feature of depression and may have an important role in the maintenance of the disorder.

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    ABSTRACT: Whether burnout is a form of depression is unclear. The aim of this study was to examine the relevance of the burnout-depression distinction by comparing attentional processing of emotional information in burnout and depression. Eye tracking technology was employed for assessing overt attentional deployment. The gaze of 54 human services employees was monitored as they freely viewed a series of emotional images, labeled as dysphoric, positive, anxiogenic, and neutral. Similarly to depression, burnout was associated with increased attention for dysphoric stimuli and decreased attention for positive stimuli. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that burnout no longer predicted these attentional alterations when depression was controlled for, and vice versa, suggesting interchangeability of the two entities in this matter. To our knowledge, this study is the first to (a) investigate emotional attention in burnout and (b) address the issue of the burnout-depression overlap at both cognitive and behavioral levels using eye movement measurement. Overall, our findings point to structural similarities between burnout and depression, thus deepening concerns regarding the singularity of the burnout phenomenon.
    European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 03/2015; 265:27-34. · 3.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alterations in the processing of emotional stimuli (e.g., facial expressions, prosody, music) have repeatedly been reported in patients with major depression. Such impairments may result from the likewise prevalent executive deficits in these patients. However, studies investigating this relationship are rare. Moreover, most studies to date have only assessed impairments in unimodal emotional processing, whereas in real life, emotions are primarily conveyed through more than just one sensory channel. The current study therefore aimed at investigating multi-modal emotional processing in patients with depression and to assess the relationship between emotional and neurocognitive impairments. Fourty one patients suffering from major depression and 41 never-depressed healthy controls participated in an audiovisual (faces-sounds) emotional integration paradigm as well as a neurocognitive test battery. Our results showed that depressed patients were specifically impaired in the processing of positive auditory stimuli as they rated faces significantly more fearful when presented with happy than with neutral sounds. Such an effect was absent in controls. Findings in emotional processing in patients did not correlate with Beck's depression inventory score. Furthermore, neurocognitive findings revealed significant group differences for two of the tests. The effects found in audiovisual emotional processing, however, did not correlate with performance in the neurocognitive tests. In summary, our results underline the diversity of impairments going along with depression and indicate that deficits found for unimodal emotional processing cannot trivially be generalized to deficits in a multi-modal setting. The mechanisms of impairments therefore might be far more complex than previously thought. Our findings furthermore contradict the assumption that emotional processing deficits in major depression are associated with impaired attention or inhibitory functioning.
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    ABSTRACT: Background and objectives According to cognitive models, attentional biases in depression play key roles in the onset and subsequent maintenance of the disorder. The present study examines the processing of emotional facial expressions (happy, angry, and sad) in depressed and non-depressed adults. Methods Sixteen patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and 34 never-depressed controls (ND) completed an eye-tracking task to assess different components of visual attention (orienting attention and maintenance of attention) in the processing of emotional faces. Results Compared to ND, participants with MDD showed a negative attentional bias in attentional maintenance indices (i.e. first fixation duration and total fixation time) for sad faces. This attentional bias was positively associated with the severity of depressive symptoms. Furthermore, the MDD group spent a marginally less amount of time viewing happy faces compared with the ND group. No differences were found between the groups with respect to angry faces and orienting attention indices. Limitations The current study is limited by its cross-sectional design. Conclusions These results support the notion that attentional biases in depression are specific to depression-related information and that they operate in later stages in the deployment of attention.
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