Never-depressed females with a family history of depression demonstrate affective bias

Psychiatry Res. 2013 Jan 30;205(1-2):54-8. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.08.004. Epub 2012 Aug 22.


According to cognitive theories of depression, individuals susceptible to depression attend selectively to negative information. The purpose of the study was to examine if such an affective processing bias is present in never-depressed individuals with a family history of major depressive disorder (MDD). Formerly depressed female patients having at least one first-degree relative with a history of MDD (n=23), their never-depressed female siblings (n=21) and never-depressed female controls (n=21) performed a conventional and an emotional Stroop task using negative, positive and neutral words. A significant effect was found of group on negative processing bias; post hoc comparisons indicated that never-depressed siblings showed a larger negative processing bias than never-depressed controls. No significant differences were observed in positive bias or conventional interference between the three groups. Our findings suggest that never-depressed females with a family history of depression, like depressed patients, have more difficulties to inhibit negative material and to direct their attention towards task-specific material. This adds to the existing evidence that affective processing bias is a trait characteristic that contributes to the onset of depression and that could be a useful endophenotype for MDD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition Disorders / genetics*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Endophenotypes*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Siblings / psychology*
  • Stroop Test