Is negative self-referent bias an endophenotype for depression? An fMRI study of emotional self-referent words in twins at high vs. low risk of depression

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BACKGROUND: Negative cognitive bias and aberrant neural processing of self-referent emotional words seem to be trait-marks of depression. However, it is unclear whether these neurocognitive changes are present in unaffected first-degree relatives and constitute an illness endophenotype.

METHODS: Fifty-three healthy, never-depressed monozygotic or dizygotic twins with a co-twin history of depression (high-risk group: n = 26) or no first-degree family history of depression (low-risk group: n = 27) underwent neurocognitive testing and functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) as part of a follow-up cohort study. Participants performed a self-referent emotional word categorisation task and free word recall task followed by a recognition task during fMRI. Participants also completed questionnaires assessing mood, personality traits and coping strategies.

RESULTS: High-risk and low-risk twins (age, mean ± SD: 40 ± 11) were well-balanced for demographic variables, mood, coping and neuroticism. High-risk twins showed lower accuracy during self-referent categorisation of emotional words independent of valence and more false recollections of negative words than low-risk twins during free recall. Functional MRI yielded no differences between high-risk and low-risk twins in retrieval-specific neural activity for positive or negative words or during the recognition of negative versus positive words within the hippocampus or prefrontal cortex.

CONCLUSIONS: The subtle display of negative recall bias is consistent with the hypothesis that self-referent negative memory bias is an endophenotype for depression. High-risk twins' lower categorisation accuracy adds to the evidence for valence-independent cognitive deficits in individuals at familial risk for depression.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Pages (from-to)267-273
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018

    Research areas

  • Adult, Brain Mapping, Cognition Disorders, Cohort Studies, Depressive Disorder/physiopathology, Emotions/physiology, Endophenotypes, Female, Hippocampus/physiology, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Mental Recall, Prefrontal Cortex/physiology, Twins, Dizygotic, Verbal Behavior/physiology, Depression, Cognition, Familial risk, Endophenotype, FMRI

ID: 184777062