A Preliminary Investigation of Cognitive Flexibility for Emotional Information in Major Depressive Disorder and Non-Psychiatric Controls

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Clinical research suggests that individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) are cognitively inflexible, exhibiting ruminative, rigid, and automatic thoughts within a negative schema. However, existing neuropsychological research on cognitive flexibility in this population has not employed emotional stimuli. Because research suggests that the performance of individuals with MDD is modulated when emotional stimuli are used, this study investigates the impact of emotional stimuli on cognitive flexibility performance through a novel emotional modification of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Controls were less flexible when stimuli were positive and individuals with MDD were less flexible when stimuli were negative relative to the controls. These divergent styles of responding to emotional information may contribute to the relative risk or protection from depressed mood.

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