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Neuropsychologia. 2008 Oct;46(12):2904-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.05.028. Epub 2008 Jun 4.

Response conflict and frontocingulate dysfunction in unmedicated participants with major depression.

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1
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Abstract

Individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) often exhibit impaired executive function, particularly in experimental tasks that involve response conflict and require adaptive behavioral adjustments. Prior research suggests that these deficits might be due to dysfunction within frontocingulate pathways implicated in response conflict monitoring and the recruitment of cognitive control. However, the temporal unfolding of conflict monitoring impairments in MDD remains poorly understood. To address this issue, we recorded 128-channel event-related potentials while 20 unmedicated participants with MDD and 20 demographically matched, healthy controls performed a Stroop task. Compared to healthy controls, MDD subjects showed larger Stroop interference effects and reduced N2 and N450 amplitudes. Source localization analyses at the time of maximal N450 activity revealed that MDD subjects had significantly reduced dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC; Brodmann area 24/32) and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 10/46) activation to incongruent relative to congruent trials. Consistent with the heterogeneous nature of depression, follow-up analyses revealed that depressed participants with the lowest level of conflict-related dACC activation 620 ms post-stimulus were characterized by the largest Stroop interference effects (relatively increased slowing and reduced accuracy for incongruent trials). Conversely, MDD participants with relatively stronger dACC recruitment did not differ from controls in terms of interference effects. These findings suggest that for some, but not all individuals, MDD is associated with impaired performance in trials involving competition among different response options, and reduced recruitment of frontocingulate pathways implicated in conflict monitoring and cognitive control.

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