Specificity of cognitive biases in patients with current depression and remitted depression and in patients with asthma

Psychol Med. 2010 May;40(5):815-26. doi: 10.1017/S0033291709990948. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Attention*
  • Cognition*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Reaction Time
  • Self Concept
  • Semantics
  • Stroop Test*
  • Verbal Learning