Depressive Thoughts Affect Working Memory

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Researchers establish a link between prolonged depression and reduced working memory, according to a new study published in March 2018.

Researchers reveal that dysphoria, which is a significant and prolonged depressed mood related to clinical depression, is associated with lowering of the brain function related to working memory. The research, under the leadership of Nicholas A. Hubbard, involved three studies to test working memory and processing speed of people suffering from depression.

The first study was conducted to test the ability of people to recall tasks with ‘neutral’ interference, the second included ‘depressive’ interference in the form of negative statements about mood. Whereas, the third focused on processing speed and recall, being a mixture of the two.

Researchers revealed that no real difference was found between DI and non-DI working-memory capacity in the first study, however, the second study proved otherwise. In the third study, the DIs who were unable to move away from negative thoughts showed reduced amount of working memory.

“Results from these studies imply that mood-congruent information evokes controlled attention deficits in individuals with depressed mood. If mood-congruent information is not able to be efficiently removed from the focus of attention, we would expect this to result in a relative decrease in working-memory capacity for individuals with depressed mood compared to those without depressed mood.” Said the authors of the study.

“Such deficits take a personal toll on these individuals with depressed mood and have societal consequences via loss of productivity and an increased rate of disability. It is likely that persistent thinking about affectively negative, mood congruent information … can impair real-world functioning for those with depressed mood.” They added.

Observations obtained from this study has the potential to help future research to improve the overall wellbeing of people suffering from depressed mood, including further examination of the impact that reduced working memory has on individuals’ daily lives.

 

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