Distinguishing depression from dementia in later life: A pilot study employing the Emotional Stroop task
In later life, cognitive impairment is common in depression often making it difficult to distinguish a dementing illness from depression. We examined whether people with depression could be differentiated from those with dementia on their performance on a task that examines attentional bias to depression related material.
Twelve older adults who fulfilled DSM-IV criteria for major depression were compared with 12 people with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and 12 age matched controls on a test of cognitive biases: the Emotional Stroop task. In this task participants were presented with words written in different coloured inks, and they had to name the colour the word was written in. Four types of material were presented-neutral, positive, and negative emotion words as well as a condition of meaningless symbols.
People with depression and those with AD were both slower than the controls on the task generally. However, the depressed group alone showed a statistically significant and specific increase in response time when colour naming the negative emotion words. The other two groups did not demonstrate such a pattern and colour named neutral, positive and negative words equally quickly.
The biased processing of depression related material may have a valuable role in distinguishing depression from dementia in later life. Although the Emotional Stroop in its present form is not sufficient for such a purpose. Furthermore, the demonstration that older adults with depression exhibit such biases helps provide a theoretical basis for the application of cognitive behavioural treatments with older adults.
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ABSTRACT: It is well documented that major depressive disorders (MDD) frequently cause mild cognitive deficits, but it is often difficult to distinguish them from dementia. We examined visual searching impairments in nine MDD patients and nine healthy controls (HC), using the well-known non-verbal cognitive test of Raven's coloured progressive matrices (RCPM). All subjects were shown the slides of RCPM, which contained both symmetrical pattern matching and analogical reasoning tasks, while eye movements were recording by a Free View-DTS (TKK2920). The results showed: (1) The MDD patients showed a significantly longer response times than HC in both tasks, but no major impairment on the saccades between the incomplete figures and six response alternatives. (2) In the analogical reasoning task, MDD patients had a tendency to fixate clearly false alternatives during the problem solving, which evidenced impairment of narrowing down the alternatives to the correct piece. These findings may show that patients with MDD exhibit visual searching impairments that are similar to visual cognitive deficits suggestive of early dementia.
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ABSTRACT: Research has shown age-related declines in the cognitive ability to inhibit irrelevant information. Thirty-six younger adults (mean age = 22 years) and 36 older adults (mean age = 74 years) performed 2 versions of an emotional Stroop task. In one, they made lexical decisions to emotion words spoken in 1 of several tones of voice. Latencies were longer for test words spoken in an incongruent tone of voice, but only for older adults. In another, words were displayed on a computer screen in a colored font, and participants quickly named the font color. Latencies were longer for test words high on arousal, but only for older adults. Results are discussed in terms of inhibitory cognitive processes, attention, and theories of emotional development.
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