Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 43 (9), 1972-1979

Aberrant Working Memory Processing in Major Depression: Evidence From Multivoxel Pattern Classification


Aberrant Working Memory Processing in Major Depression: Evidence From Multivoxel Pattern Classification

Matti Gärtner et al. Neuropsychopharmacology.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is often accompanied by severe impairments in working memory (WM). Neuroimaging studies investigating the mechanisms underlying these impairments have produced conflicting results. It remains unclear whether MDD patients show hyper- or hypoactivity in WM-related brain regions and how potential aberrations in WM processing may contribute to the characteristic dysregulation of cognition-emotion interactions implicated in the maintenance of the disorder. In order to shed light on these questions and to overcome limitations of previous studies, we applied a multivoxel pattern classification approach to investigate brain activity in large samples of MDD patients (N = 57) and matched healthy controls (N = 61) during a WM task that incorporated positive, negative, and neutral stimuli. Results showed that patients can be distinguished from healthy controls with good classification accuracy based on functional activation patterns. ROI analyses based on the classification weight maps showed that during WM, patients had higher activity in the left DLPFC and the dorsal ACC. Furthermore, regions of the default-mode network (DMN) were less deactivated in patients. As no performance differences were observed, we conclude that patients required more effort, indexed by more activity in WM-related regions, to successfully perform the task. This increased effort might be related to difficulties in suppressing task-irrelevant information reflected by reduced deactivation of regions within the DMN. Effects were most pronounced for negative and neutral stimuli, thus pointing toward important implications of aberrations in WM processes in cognition-emotion interactions in MDD.

Conflict of interest statement

KB is co-founder and co-owner of Computomics GmbH. The remaining authors declare no competing interests.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
SVM weight map. The location of the most relevant SVM classification weights from the WM > fixation contrast are shown (20% of the highest weights with a cluster threshold of 50 voxels). Red regions depict more activation in MDD patients. Blue regions depict more activation in healthy controls
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
ROI results. a, b Results from the left DLPFC ROI. c, d Results from the dorsal ACC ROI. e, f Results from the PCC ROI. g, h Results from the right IPL ROI. i, j Results from the left STG/insula ROI. The left column shows the results for the contrast of parameter estimates. The right column shows the results for the raw parameter estimates. Asterisks depict significant differences (t-statistic) between MDD patients and healthy controls (HC): ***p < 0.001; **p < 0.01; *p < 0.05

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Publication types