Sustained Engagement of Attention is Associated with Increased Negative Self-referent Processing in Major Depressive Disorder
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This study investigated the link between self-reference and attentional engagement in adults with (n=22) and without (HC; n=24) Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants completed the Self-Referent Encoding Task (SRET). MDD participants endorsed significantly fewer positive words and more negative words as self-descriptive than HC participants. A whole-scalp data analysis technique revealed that the MDD participants had larger difference wave (negative words minus positive words) ERP amplitudes from 380 to 1000ms across posterior sites, which positively correlated with number of negative words endorsed. No group differences were observed for earlier attentional components (P1, P2). The results suggest that among adults with MDD, negative stimuli capture attention during later information processing; this engagement is associated with greater self-referent endorsement of negative adjectives. Sustained cognitive engagement for self-referent negative stimuli may be an important target for neurocognitive depression interventions.