Attention control and its emotion-specific association with cognitive emotion regulation in depression
Individuals with major depression show impaired control of attention and emotions. Both processes are conceptually similar and might share common mechanisms. The current study aims to examine attention control and its association with cognitive emotion regulation in depression. 26 patients with a history of major depression (14 females) and 26 healthy controls (14 females) performed an emotional face-word Stroop task and a cognitive emotion regulation task while undergoing fMRI. Patients and controls showed a similar behavioral performance in both tasks. Across groups, participants who were less distracted from happy faces by the incongruent word “sadness” (Stroop task) were better at regulating their happiness (emotion regulation task). Notably, both the Stroop and emotion regulation task recruited the left supramarginal gyrus. Additionally, only patients showed a relative attentional disengagement from positive compared to negative stimuli in the Stroop task. Attention control and cognitive emotion regulation capabilities appear to be linked at both the behavioral and neural level. Shared mechanisms suggest that emotional disturbances in depression may be improved by interventions that target attention control, particularly regarding the processing of positive stimuli.
KeywordsStroop Attention control Interference processing Cognitive emotion regulation Reappraisal Depression fMRI
This study was supported by the Brain Imaging Facility of the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research within the Faculty of Medicine at the RWTH Aachen University and by the International Research Training Group (IRTG 2150) of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
Ute Habel, Frank Schneider, Sina Radke, and Birgit Derntl were supported by JARA-Brain. Leonie Loeffler was supported by a PhD stipend of the RWTH Aachen University. Theodore Satterthwaite was supported by NIMH R01MH107703.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
- Army Individual Test Battery. (1944). Manual of directions and scoring. In Washington DC: War department, adjutant General’s office: War department. Adjutant: General’s Office.Google Scholar
- Beauregard, M., Paquette, V., & Lévesque, J. (2006). Dysfunction in the neural circuitry of emotional self-regulation in major depressive disorder. Neuroreport, 17(8), 843–846. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.wnr.0000220132.32091.9f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Browning, M., Holmes, E. A., & Harmer, C. J. (2010). The modification of attentional bias to emotional information: A review of the techniques, mechanisms, and relevance to emotional disorders. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 10(1), 8–20. https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.10.1.8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Deschamps, I., Baum, S. R., & Gracco, V. L. (2014). On the role of the supramarginal gyrus in phonological processing and verbal working memory: Evidence from rTMS studies. Neuropsychologia, 53(1), 39–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.10.015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Eickhoff, S. B., Stephan, K. E., Mohlberg, H., Grefkes, C., Fink, G. R., Amunts, K., & Zilles, K. (2005). A new SPM toolbox for combining probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps and functional imaging data. NeuroImage, 25(4), 1325–1335. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.12.034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Feng, C., Becker, B., Huang, W., Wu, X., Eickhoff, S. B., & Chen, T. (2018). Neural substrates of the emotion-word and emotional counting Stroop tasks in healthy and clinical populations: A meta-analysis of functional brain imaging studies. NeuroImage, 173, 258–274. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.02.023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gross, J. J., & Thompson, R. A. (2007). Emotion regulation: Conceptual foundations. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Hautzinger, M., Bailer, M., Worall, H., & Keller, F. (1995). Beck-depressions-Inventar. (BDI). Bern: Huber.Google Scholar
- Johnstone, T., van Reekum, C. M., Urry, H. L., Kalin, N. H., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Failure to regulate: Counterproductive recruitment of top-down prefrontal-subcortical circuitry in major depression. The Journal of Neuroscience, 27(33), 8877–8884. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2063-07.2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Joyal, M., Wensing, T., Levasseur-Moreau, J., Leblond, J., Sack, A. T., & Fecteau, S. (2019). Characterizing emotional Stroop interference in posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression and anxiety disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS One, 14(4), e0214998 doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Laux, L., Glanzmann, P., Schaffner, P., & Spielberger, C. D. (1981). STAI: Das state-trait-Angstinventar. Weinheim: Beltz.Google Scholar
- Li, C. R., Huang, C., Constable, R. T., & Sinha, R. (2006). Imaging response inhibition in a stop-signal task: Neural correlates independent of signal monitoring and post-response processing. The Journal of Neuroscience, 26(1), 186–192. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3741-05.2006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Li, C. R., Yan, P., Chao, H. H., Sinha, R., Paliwal, P., Constable, T., et al. (2009). Error-specific medial cortical and subcortical activity during the stop signal task - a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Neuroscience, 155(4), 1142–1151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.06.062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Loeffler, L. A. K., Radke, S., Habel, U., Ciric, R., Satterthwaite, T. D., Schneider, F., & Derntl, B. (2018). The regulation of positive and negative emotions through instructed causal attributions in lifetime depression – A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. NeuroImage: Clinical, 20, 1233–1245. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2018.10.025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Morawetz, C., Bode, S., Derntl, D., & Heekeren, H. R. (2017). The effect of strategies, goals and stimulus material on the neural mechanisms of emotion regulation: A meta-analysis of fMRI studies. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 72, 111–128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.11.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ochsner, K. N., Silvers, J., & Buhle, J. T. (2012). Functional imaging studies of emotion regulation: A synthetic review and evolving model of the cognitive control of emotion. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1251, E1–E24. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06751.x.
- Phillips, M. L., Ladouceur, C. D., & Drevets, W. C. (2008). A neural model of voluntary and automatic emotion regulation: Implications for understanding the pathophysiology and neurodevelopment of bipolar disorder. Molecular Psychiatry, 13(829), 833–857. https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2008.65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rive, M. M., van Rooijen, G., Veltman, D. J., Phillips, M. L., Schene, A. H., & Ruhé, H. G. (2013). Neural correlates of dysfunctional emotion regulation in major depressive disorder. A systematic review of neuroimaging studies. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(10), 2529–2553. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.07.018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Schmidt, K.-H., & Metzler, P. (1992). Wortschatztest (WST). Weinheim: Beltz Test GmbH.Google Scholar
- Vanderhasselt, M., Baeken, C., Van Schuerbeek, P., Luypaert, R., & Raedt, R. D. (2013). Inter-individual differences in the habitual use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression are associated with variations in prefrontal cognitive control for emotional information: An event related fMRI study. Biological Psychology, 92(3), 433–439. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.03.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1991). The mood and anxiety symptom questionnaire. Iowa City: University of Iowa.Google Scholar
- Wittchen, H. U., Fydrich, T., & Zaudig, M. (1997). Strukturiertes klinisches Interview für DSM-IV: psychische Störungen; Interviewheft und Beurteilungsheft; SKID-I.. Achse I. Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
- Xu, M., Xu, G., & Yang, Y. (2016). Neural systems underlying emotional and non-emotional interference processing: An ALE meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10(220), eCollection 2016). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00220.