Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 275–289 | Cite as

Diagnostic and Symptom-Based Predictors of Emotional Processing in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder: An Event-Related Potential Study

  • Annmarie MacNamara
  • Roman Kotov
  • Greg Hajcak
Original Article


The delineation of specific versus overlapping mechanisms in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) could shed light on the integrity of these diagnostic categories. For example, negative emotion generation is one mechanism that may be especially relevant to both disorders. Emotional processing abnormalities were examined among 97 outpatients with GAD or MDD and 25 healthy adults, using the late positive potential (LPP), an event-related potential that is larger for emotional versus neutral stimuli. GAD and MDD were also assessed dimensionally across all participants. Both MDD diagnosis and dimensional depression scores were associated with reduced ΔLPP. When controlling for MDD diagnosis/dimension, both the diagnosis and dimension of GAD were associated with increased ΔLPP. Both MDD and GAD dimensions, but not diagnoses, were associated with increased ΔRT to targets that followed emotional pictures. Therefore, MDD and GAD have distinguishable and opposing features evident in neural measures of emotion processing.


GAD MDD ERP Late positive potential LPP IAPS Emotional context insensitivity RDoC IMAS Transdiagnostic 



This research was supported by a grant from the Feldstein Medical Foundation (RK). AM was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, T32MH067631-09 during preparation of this paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Annmarie MacNamara, Roman Kotov and Greg Hajcak declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (national and institutional). Informed consent was obtained from all individual subjects participating in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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