Executive control dysfunction in subclinical depressive undergraduates: Evidence from the Attention Network Test.J Affect Disord 2019; 245:130-139JA
It has been proposed that depressed individuals have broad neuropsychological dysfunction, particularly in the executive control domain. The Attention Network Test (ANT) is widely used to assess the efficiency of three attention networks: alerting, orienting, and executive control. In the present study, we investigated the behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) indicators of attention processing in subclinical depressive undergraduates.
Seventeen undergraduates with subclinical depressive symptoms and sixteen control undergraduates completed the Attention Network Test (ANT).
The results indicated no difference in behavioral performance on the three attention networks between the two groups; and there was a similar ERP pattern in the ERP components involved in alerting and orienting (cue-N1 and target-N1) in both groups. Additionally, for executive function network, no difference in the N2 component associated with conflict detection was observed between the two groups. However, there was an increase in the congruency effect of the conflict-sustained potential (SP; incongruent minus congruent) related to conflict resolution in undergraduates with subclinical depressive symptoms compared with control undergraduates.
The present study is limited by its small sample size which might result in inadequate statistical power to detect potential group differences in behavior. Additionally, the present study focused primarily on individuals with subclinical depression, and the extent to which these findings would generalize to those with more severe symptoms or clinical major depressive disorder is unknown.
The findings suggest that undergraduates with subclinical depressive symptoms might need to recruit additional compensatory cognitive resources to obtain an equivalent behavioral performance compared with that in undergraduates with none or few depressive symptoms in executive control processing. The current study further provides evidence for the cortical inefficiency theory, which might account for executive control dysfunction in individuals with subclinical depression.