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J Int Med Res. 2018 May;46(5):1734-1746. doi: 10.1177/0300060518758225. Epub 2018 Mar 12.

Emotional working memory in patients with major depressive disorder.

Li M1,2, Feng L3, Liu X1,2, Zhang M1,2, Fu B3, Wang G3,4, Lu S1,5,2, Zhong N1,5,2,6, Hu B7.

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1 Department of Automation, Faculty of Information Technology, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing, China.
3 The Beijing International Collaboration Base on Brain Informatics and Wisdom Services, Beijing, China.
4 Mood Disorders Center & China Clinical Research Center for Mental Disorders, Beijing Anding Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
5 Center of Depression, Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, Beijing, China.
2 Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Internet Technology, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing, China.
6 Department of Life Science and Informatics, Maebashi Institute of Technology Maebashi City, Japan.
7 School of Information Science and Engineering, Lianzhou University, Lanzhou, China.


Objective This study was performed to examine the working memory (WM) encoding and retrieval abilities in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and determine whether a mood-congruent memory effect is present. Methods The modified Sternberg WM paradigm with positive, negative, and neutral emotional pictures was used to investigate the WM abilities of 26 patients with MDD and 26 healthy controls (HCs). Results No significant difference in picture WM was found between the MDD and HC groups; however, the accuracy of picture position WM was significantly lower and the response time was significantly longer in the MDD than HC group, regardless of the picture or position WM. Additionally, in the MDD group, the accuracy of negative picture/position WM was significantly higher than that of positive picture/position WM. Conclusions These results suggest that in patients with MDD, spatial WM impairment was more severe than object WM. In addition, these patients' WM retrieval was impaired, resulting in a decrease in WM retrieval ability, which may be an important cause of the slow thought in patients with MDD. Moreover, patients with depression have a mood-congruent memory effect, which may be an important factor in the occurrence and maintenance of depression.


Depression; Sternberg WM paradigm; WM encoding; WM retrieval; emotion; working memory (WM)

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