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Scand J Psychol. 2010 Aug;51(4):304-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2009.00765.x. Epub 2009 Dec 23.

Enduring cognitive dysfunction in unipolar major depression: a test-retest study using the Stroop paradigm.

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Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.


The aim of the study was to investigate automatic and effortful information processing with the Stroop paradigm in a long term perspective in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Patients were tested at two test occasions: at inclusion with a Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) score >18, and after 6 months, when most patients had experienced symptom reduction. The Stroop paradigm is considered to measure aspects of attention and executive functioning and consists of three conditions/cards: naming the color of the patches (Color), reading of the color-words (Word) and naming the ink color of color-words (Color-Word). The Color-Word condition is proved to be the most cognitive demanding task and requires the proband to actively suppress interference and is therefore considered to require more effortful information processing, whereas naming the color of the patches and reading the color-words are expected to be more automatic and less cognitive demanding. A homogenous group of 19 patients with unipolar recurrent MDD according to DSM-IV and a HDRS score of >18 were included in the study. A control group was individually matched for age, gender and level of education. Depressed patients performed equal to the control group on the Color and Word cards at both test occasions. However, the patients were impaired compared with the control group on the Color-Word card task at both test occasions. Thus, the depressed patients showed no improvement of effortful attention/executive performance as a function of symptom reduction. The results indicate that the depressed patients showed impaired cognitive performance on cognitive demanding tasks when symptomatic and that this impairment prevailed after 6 months, despite significant improvement in their depressive symptoms.

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