Just Swap Out of Negative Vibes? Rumination and Inhibition Deficits in Major Depressive Disorder: Data from Event-Related Potentials Studies


Major depression is a serious disorder of impaired emotion regulation. Emotion hyperactivity leads to excessive negative ruminations that daily hijack the patient's mental life, impacting their mood. Evidence from past researches suggest that depressive patients present several cognitive impairments in attention and working memory, leading to a more acute selective attention for negative stimuli and a greater accessibility of negative memories. Recently, is has been proposed that impaired inhibitory functioning with regard to emotional information processing might be one of the mechanisms of ruminations linking memory, attention and depression. It seems that inhibition deficit is present at both the input level (i.e., the ability to reduce the interference from emotional distracters) and the higher level (i.e., the ability to direct the attention away from emotional material that has already been processed) of emotional information processing. Event-related potentials (ERP) have widely been used to study inhibition in adults suffering from various psychopathological states. In particular, depressive disorder has been linked to ERPs modulations, at early as well as at latter stages of the information-processing stream, when processing affective material. For instance, deficits in inhibiting negative information have been indexed by changes in the parameters (amplitudes and latencies) of early P2, P1 and N1 components while other ERP studies have shown an ability to differentiate depressed patients from normal controls based upon response inhibition difficulties in go-nogo tasks, indexed by later NoGo P3 differences. In this review, we will focus on results of ERP studies investigating inhibition and its interaction with emotional related cue processing in depressive populations. Implications for future research and theoretical perspectives will be discussed within the framework of current models of depressive disorder, based upon the hypothesis that negative ruminations are at the center of depression processes.

Keywords: MDD; Major Depressive Disorder; emotion-regulation strategy; event-related potentials; inhibition; rumination.

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