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Cogn Emot. 2016;30(2):193-209. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2014.991694. Epub 2015 Jan 6.

Depressive thoughts limit working memory capacity in dysphoria.

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a School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences , University of Texas at Dallas , Richardson , TX , USA.
b Department of Psychiatry , University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center , Dallas , TX , USA.
c Department of Human Development and Family Studies , Michigan State University , East Lansing , MI , USA.


Dysphoria is associated with persistence of attention on mood-congruent information. Longer time attending to mood-congruent information for dysphoric individuals (DIs) detracts from goal-relevant information processing and should reduce working memory (WM) capacity. Study 1 showed that DIs and non-DIs have similar WM capacities. Study 2 embedded depressive information into a WM task. Compared to non-DIs, DIs showed significantly reduced WM capacity for goal-relevant information in this task. Study 3 replicated results from Studies 1 and 2, and further showed that DIs had a significantly greater association between processing speed and recall on the depressively modified WM task compared to non-DIs. The presence of inter-task depressive information leads to DI-related decreased WM capacity. Results suggest dysphoria-related WM capacity deficits when depressive thoughts are present. WM capacity deficits in the presence of depressive thoughts are a plausible mechanism to explain day-to-day memory and concentration difficulties associated with depressed mood.


Attention; Depressed mood; Memory deficits; Processing speed; Working memory capacity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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