Internal cognitive control in clinical depression: General but no emotion-specific impairments

Evi De Lissnyder, Ernst H.W. Koster*, Jonas Everaert, Rik Schacht, Dirk Van den Abeele, Rudi De Raedt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Prior research has suggested that depression is characterized by impaired cognitive control. The present study sought to investigate internal cognitive control impairments related to emotional information and task settings in clinical depression (MDD, major depressive disorder). Internal cognitive control was operationalized as switching between internally held mental representations that required continuous updating in working memory and measured with the Internal Shift Task (IST). The results showed that MDD individuals were characterized by a general switching impairment. This switching impairment was neither influenced by the task-relevance of emotional information, nor influenced by the valence of the faces within the emotion condition. The impairment in cognitive control reflected in general switching impairments was related to rumination, a specific cognitive symptom and important risk factor of depression. The results of this study offer new insights into the relationship between depression and impaired cognitive control with potential clinical implications, informing treatment and prevention programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-130
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Internal attention
  • Rumination
  • Switching
  • Working memory


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