Attention disturbance in clinical depression. Deficient distractor inhibition or processing resource deficit?

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1996 Feb;184(2):114-21. doi: 10.1097/00005053-199602000-00010.


Cognitive impairments in depression have recently been proposed as secondary to more basic attentional disturbances. Studies have shown that performance on the Stroop Color-Word Test is impaired in depressives, but it is not clear whether this impairment reflects a primary distractor inhibition disturbance or a more global cognitive dysfunction, such as a reduction of processing resources. In the present study, unmedicated clinical depressives were evaluated using a computerized Stroop Color-Word Test and the Visuo-Spatial Interference Test, a selective attention task that makes fewer demands on resources. Compared with normal subjects, depressives presented increased choice reaction times (CRT) and interference in both tests. Correlations were found between CRT and interferences only in depressives, favoring the processing resource hypothesis. Further exploratory analysis comparing the more rapid depressives and the slower normal subjects on CRT revealed that although these subgroups had comparable CRT, rapid depressives still exhibited increased interference on the Visuo-Spatial Interference Test. Thus, in non- or mildly retarded patients, a specific distractor inhibition deficit was observed in absence of resource deficit.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Color Perception
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Verbal Behavior