Time course of selective attention in clinically depressed young adults: An eye-tracking study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46, 1238-1243

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


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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Available from: Christopher G Beevers
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    • "Based on the view that biased attention is a trait-like vulnerability factor for depression (e.g., Beck and Clark, 1988; DeRaedt and Koster, 2010; Gotlib and Joormann, 2010; Ingram et al., 2008; Koster et al., 2011), we predicted that remitted depressed participants would exhibit attentional biases similar to the documented attentional biases of currently depressed participants; specifically, increased attention to sad faces and decreased attention to happy faces relative to never depressed participants. With respect to temporal changes in attention to the emotional faces, based on the previous literature (Arndt et al., 2014; Kellough et al., 2008), we predicted that group differences would develop over time and that remitted depressed and currently depressed participants would exhibit similar temporal changes of attention that would be different than the changes observed for never depressed participants. "
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    ABSTRACT: Depression is associated with attentional biases for emotional information that are proposed to reflect stable vulnerability factors for the development and recurrence of depression. A key question for researchers is whether those who have recovered from depression also exhibit attentional biases, and if so, how similar these biases are to those who are currently depressed. To address this question, the present study examined attention to emotional faces in remitted depressed (N=26), currently depressed (N=16), and never depressed (N=33) individuals. Participants viewed sets of four face images (happy, sad, threatening, and neutral) while their eye movements were tracked throughout an 8-s presentation. Like currently depressed participants, remitted depressed participants attended to sad faces significantly more than never depressed participants and attended to happy faces significantly less. Analyzing temporal changes in attention revealed that currently and remitted depressed participants did not reduce their attention to sad faces over the 8-s presentation, unlike never depressed participants. In contrast, remitted depressed participants attended to happy faces similarly to never depressed participants, increasing their attention to happy faces over the 8-s presentation. The implications for cognitive theories of depression and depression vulnerability are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015
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    • "The advantage of using emotional faces is that they are more likely to be ecologically valid than words (Gross, 2005) and are better at attracting attention due to their higher interpersonal relevance. Based on previous studies of eye movement (Eizenman et al., 2003; Kellough et al., 2008) and reaction time tasks (Gotlib, Kasch, et al., 2004; Gotlib, Krasnoperova, et al., 2004), we hypothesized that depressed participants would show a negative bias in the maintenance of gaze specifically with regards to sad facial expressions (i.e. duration of the first fixation and total fixation time) but not in the orientation of gaze (i.e. "
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
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    • "In the present study we examined attentional biases in both current and remitted depressed individuals in which participants' gaze was continuously recorded while they viewed emotional faces. First, in this study, facial expressions of different emotional contents (angry, sad, happy and neutral faces) were presented, compared to the presentation of emotional scenes or emotional words in most of the above mentioned studies (Caseras et al., 2007; Eizenman et al., 2003; Kellough et al., 2008). The main purpose of the present study was to investigate attentional interference among participants who are currently depressed, remitted depressed and among healthy controls by determining interference for negative stimuli (e.g., sad faces) and to establish whether this interference is evident at an early (first fixation), or late (maintained fixation) stage of information processing. "
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive theories of depression propose that depressed individuals preferentially attend to negative information and that such cognitive biases constitute important vulnerability and maintenance factors for the disorder. Most studies examined this bias by registration of response latencies. The present study employed a direct and continuous measurement of attentional processing for emotional stimuli by recording eye movements. Currently depressed (CD), remitted depressed (RD) and healthy control (HC) participants viewed slides presenting sad, angry, happy and neutral facial expressions. For each expression, four components of visual attention were analyzed: first fixation, maintained fixation, relative fixation frequency and glance duration. Results showed that healthy controls were characterized by longer gaze duration for happy faces compared to currently depressed individuals but not compared to remitted depressed individuals. Both patient groups (CD, RD) demonstrated longer maintained fixation (dwelling time) on all emotional faces compared to healthy controls. The present findings are in line with the presumption that depression is associated with a loss of elaborative processing of positive stimuli that characterizes healthy controls. Importantly, successful remission of depression (RD group) may result in positive attentional processing as no group differences were found between healthy controls and remitted patients on glance duration for happy faces.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014
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