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Depressive thoughts can influence working memory (2015-03-24)

Dysphoria is associated with persistence of attention on mood-congruent information. Longer time attending to mood-congruent information for dysphoric individuals (DIs) detracts from goal-relevant information processing and should reduce working memory (WM) capacity.

Nicholas A. Hubbard and his colleagues carried out three studies to test both working memory and processing speed.
Study 1 was a recall task with 'neutral' interference and showed that DIs and non-DIs have similar WM capacities.

Study 2 was a variation of the first with 'depressive' interference in the form of negative statements about mood embedded depressive information into a WM task. Compared to non-DIs, DIs showed significantly reduced WM capacity for goal-relevant information in this task.

Study 3 replicated results from Studies 1 and 2, and further showed that DIs had a significantly greater association between processing speed and recall on the depressively modified WM task compared to non-DIs. The presence of inter-task depressive information leads to DI-related decreased WM capacity.

Results suggest dysphoria-related WM capacity deficits when depressive thoughts are present.
WM capacity deficits in the presence of depressive thoughts are a plausible mechanism to explain day-to-day memory and concentration difficulties associated with depressed mood.

For more information
Nicholas A. Hubbard, Joanna L. Hutchison, Monroe Turner, Janelle Montroy, Ryan P. Bowles, Bart Rypma.
Depressive thoughts limit working memory capacity in dysphoria. Cognition and Emotion, 2015; 1 DOI: 10.1080/02699931.2014.991694