Do the early attentional components of ERPs reflect attentional bias in depression? It depends on the stimulus presentation time

Mingtian Z, Xiongzhao Z, Jinyao Y, Shuqiao Y, Atchley RA

Clin Neurophysiol 2011 Jul;122(7):1371-81

PMID: 20961804


OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to utilize behavioral and electrophysiological data to investigate whether depressed patients show an attentional bias in a task that allows for explicit insight into the time course of selective attention processes.

METHODS: Event-related potentials (ERPs) were collected from 24 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and 25 never-depressed individuals (ND) during a dot-probe task, using pairs of affectively valenced pictures as cues. Cue presentation time was either 100 ms or 500 ms.

RESULTS: When the cue presentation time was 500 ms, bias scores for positive-neutral picture pairs (POS-NEU) were negative for the MDD group and positive for the ND group which means ND individuals were able to successfully select positive information. These behavioral effects were supported by ERP results. In the ND group, at the right parietal-occipital region, P1 amplitude during valid POS-NEU pairs was significantly larger than that during invalid POS-NEU pairs; this pattern did not appear in the MDD group.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that MDD patients are characterized by a deficit in protection bias, meaning that these participants cannot avoid attending to negative information in their environment, but only when negative stimuli are presented for a sufficient period of time.

SIGNIFICANCE: Attentional bias is modulated by duration of emotional pictures presentation in depression.