Attention bias for negative semantic stimuli in late life depression and clinical research portfolio.
D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Background: Recent studies indicate that depressed individuals may have difficulties
disengaging visual-spatial attention from negative information. Preliminary studies in
depressed older adults provide evidence for the existence of biased attention to negative
stimuli. However, the specific components of attention driving the detected bias effects in this
population are not known. Aims: This study examined the mechanisms underlying attention
biases in Late Life Depression (LLD). It was predicted that depressed older adults, like their
younger counterparts, would demonstrate an impaired ability to disengage attention from
negative stimuli relative to neutral and positive stimuli, as compared to non-depressed older
adult controls. Methods: 16 clinically depressed older adults and 22 older adult controls
matched for age, gender and pre-morbid verbal IQ performed an emotional spatial cueing task
that required classifying a target stimulus. The location of the target was correctly or
incorrectly cued by a neutral, positive or negative word. Results: Planned comparisons did
not support the primary hypotheses. However, participants in the depressed group, in general,
were slower to respond than participants in the control group. Conclusions: Results suggest
that the ability to disengage attention from negative words is not impaired in LLD; however
methodological limitations prevent firm conclusions being drawn. Possible explanations for
the results are discussed along with directions for future research.
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