Emotion/cognition-coupling in word recognition memory of depressive patients: An event-related potential study

Detlef E. Dietrich*, Hinderk M. Emrich, Christiane Waller, Bernardina M. Wieringa, Sönke Johannes, Thomas F. Münte

*Corresponding author for this work
36 Citations (Scopus)


Depressive patients show deficits in memory functions. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Experiments with a special emphasis on the link between emotion and cognition appear challenging. The aim of this study is to investigate the influence of the emotional content of words on memory in non-medicated depressive patients (n = 11) compared with a control group (n = 11) utilizing event-related brain potentials (ERPs). In a continuous word recognition paradigm brain responses to repeated items are characterized by more positive waveforms of ERPs. This recognition effect ('old/new effect') has been shown to be sensitive to parameters relevant for memory processing. For the purpose of this ERP experiment visually presented words were classified into three different categories of emotional content. The ERPs for the correctly detected 'old' (repeated) words showed an increased positivity beginning approximately 250 ms post-stimulus, concurring with a good recognition performance. In addition, old/new effect and behavioral data were sensitive to words' different emotional connotations in the control group. In contrast, the depressive patients performed worse and showed no significant old/new effect. Nevertheless, their recognition performance was also enhanced by the emotional content. Furthermore, a differential effect of the emotional content on frontal ERPs was found between groups. In contrast to the control group, a reduced old/new effect indicates a reduced working memory capacity in the moderately depressed patients. This is suggested to be partially due to changes of the emotion/cognition coupling related to ruminations with preferably negative emotional connotation. However, the emotional content also affects recognition performance in the depressive patients. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 25.09.2000

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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