Background: Cognitive bias is a common characteristic of major depressive disorder (MDD) and is posited to remain during remission and contribute to recurrence risk. Attention bias may be related to enhanced amygdala activity or altered amygdala functional connectivity in depression. The current study examined attention bias, brain activity for emotional images, and functional connectivity in post-menopausal women with and without a history of major depression.
Methods: Attention bias for emotionally valenced images was examined in 33 postmenopausal women with (n=12) and without (n=21) a history of major depression using an emotion dot probe task during fMRI. Group differences in amygdala activity and functional connectivity were assessed using fMRI and examined for correlations to attention performance.
Results: Women with a history of MDD showed greater attentional bias for negative images and greater activity in brain areas including the amygdala for both positive and negative images (pcorr <0.001) than women without a history of MDD. In all participants, amygdala activity for negative images was correlated with attention facilitation for emotional images. Women with a history of MDD had significantly greater functional connectivity between the amygdala and hippocampal complex. In all participants amygdala-hippocampal connectivity was positively correlated with attention facilitation for negative images.
Limitations: Small sample with unbalanced groups.
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence for negative attentional bias in euthymic, remitted depressed individuals. Activity and functional connectivity in limbic and attention networks may provide a neurobiological basis for continued cognitive bias in remitted depression.
Keywords: Attention; Brain imaging/neuroimaging; Cognition; Depression; Functional MRI.
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