Skip Navigation LinksHome > September 2011 - Volume 199 - Issue 9 > Selective Attention in Depression: Influence of Emotionality...
Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease:
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e318229d6cf
Original Articles

Selective Attention in Depression: Influence of Emotionality and Personal Relevance

Schlosser, Nicole MD*; Mensebach, Christoph PhD†; Rullkötter, Nina PhD*; Schaffrath, Camille MD‡; Driessen, Martin PhD*‡§; Beblo, Thomas PrivDoz, PhD*; Wingenfeld, Katja PhD∥

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Abstract

Selective attention to negative stimuli has been discussed as being an essential characteristic of depressive disorder. Theories and empirical data, however, are contradictory. The present study addressed the question of whether depressive patients selectively attend to negatively valenced and personally relevant or irrelevant stimuli and whether they habituate to these stimuli. Thirty-one inpatients with major depressive disorder and 37 healthy controls participated in the study. They underwent a modification of the emotional Stroop paradigm. The results indicated that personally relevant stimuli evoked more pronounced Stroop interference than did stimuli without personal relevance in all subjects. Furthermore, habituation to personally relevant negative stimuli was seen in both depressive patients and control subjects. The present findings question a generally negative attentional bias as being a specific characteristic of depressive disorder. Furthermore, as depressed patients habituated to personally relevant negative stimuli, exposure therapy might be suitable for the treatment of depressive disorder.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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