Affective Enhancement of Working Memory Is Maintained in Depression

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Abstract

We currently know little about how performance on assessments of working memory capacity (WMC) that are designed to mirror the concurrent task demands of daily life are impacted by the presence of affective information, nor how those effects may be modulated by depression—a syndrome where sufferers report global difficulties with executive processing. Across 3 experiments, we investigated WMC for sets of neutral words in the context of processing either neutral or affective (depressogenic) sentences, which had to be judged on semantic accuracy (Experiments 1 and 2) or self-reference (Experiment 3). Overall, WMC was significantly better in the context of depressogenic compared with neutral sentences. However, there was no support for this effect being modulated by symptoms of depression (Experiment 1) or the presence of recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD; Experiments 2 and 3). Implications of these findings for cognitive theories of the role of WM in depression are discussed in the context of a growing body of research showing no support for a differential impact of depressogenic compared with neutral information on WM accuracy.

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