Background: The processing of emotional stimuli is thought to be negatively biased in major depression. This study investigates this issue using musical, vocal and facial affective stimuli.
Methods: 23 depressed in-patients and 23 matched healthy controls were recruited. Affective information processing was assessed through musical, vocal and facial emotion recognition tasks. Depression, anxiety level and attention capacity were controlled.
Results: The depressed participants demonstrated less accurate identification of emotions than the control group in all three sorts of emotion-recognition tasks. The depressed group also gave higher intensity ratings than the controls when scoring negative emotions, and they were more likely to attribute negative emotions to neutral voices and faces.
Limitations: Our in-patient group might differ from the more general population of depressed adults. They were all taking anti-depressant medication, which may have had an influence on their emotional information processing.
Conclusions: Major depression is associated with a general negative bias in the processing of emotional stimuli. Emotional processing impairment in depression is not confined to interpersonal stimuli (faces and voices), being also present in the ability to feel music accurately.
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