Attentional Control in Subclinical Anxiety and Depression: Depression Symptoms Are Associated With Deficits in Target Facilitation, Not Distractor Inhibition.
Pike AC., Printzlau FAB., von Lautz AH., Harmer CJ., Stokes MG., Noonan MP.
Mood and anxiety disorders are associated with deficits in attentional control involving emotive and non-emotive stimuli. Current theories focus on impaired attentional inhibition of distracting stimuli in producing these deficits. However, standard attention tasks struggle to separate distractor inhibition from target facilitation. Here, we investigate whether distractor inhibition underlies these deficits using neutral stimuli in a behavioral task specifically designed to tease apart these two attentional processes. Healthy participants performed a four-location Posner cueing paradigm and completed self-report questionnaires measuring depressive symptoms and trait anxiety. Using regression analyses, we found no relationship between distractor inhibition and mood symptoms or trait anxiety. However, we find a relationship between target facilitation and depression. Specifically, higher depressive symptoms were associated with reduced target facilitation in a task-version in which the target location repeated over a block of trials. We suggest this may relate to findings previously linking depression with deficits in predictive coding in clinical populations.