Background: Previous studies have demonstrated a specific cognitive bias for sad stimuli in currently depressed patients; little is known, however, about whether this bias persists after recovery from the depressive episode. Depression is frequently observed in patients with asthma and is associated with a worse course of the disease. Given these high rates of co-morbidity, we could expect to observe a similar bias towards sad stimuli in patients with asthma.
Method: We therefore examined cognitive biases in memory and attention in 20 currently and 20 formerly depressed participants, 20 never-depressed patients diagnosed with asthma, and 20 healthy control participants. All participants completed three cognitive tasks: the self-referential encoding and incidental recall task, the emotion face dot-probe task and the emotional Stroop task.
Results: Compared with healthy participants, currently and formerly depressed participants, but not patients with asthma, exhibited specific biases for sad stimuli.
Conclusions: These results suggest that cognitive biases are evident in depression even after recovery from an acute episode but are not found in never-depressed patients with asthma.