Cognitive theories of depression posit that selective attention for negative information contributes to the maintenance of depression. The current study experimentally tested this idea by randomly assigning adults with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) to 4 weeks of computer-based attention bias modification designed to reduce negative attention bias or 4 weeks of placebo attention training. Findings indicate that compared to placebo training, attention bias modification reduced negative attention bias and increased resting-state connectivity within a neural circuit (i.e., middle frontal gyrus and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that supports control over emotional information. Further, pre- to post-training change in negative attention bias was significantly correlated with depression symptom change only in the active training condition. Exploratory analyses indicated that pre- to post-training changes in resting state connectivity within a circuit associated with sustained attention to visual information (i.e., precuenus and middle frontal gyrus) contributed to symptom improvement in the placebo condition. Importantly, depression symptoms did not change differentially between the training groups-overall, a 40% decrease in symptoms was observed across attention training conditions. Findings suggest that negative attention bias is associated with the maintenance of depression; however, deficits in general attentional control may also maintain depression symptoms, as evidenced by resting state connectivity and depression symptom improvement in the placebo training condition.
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