Reaction time and pupillary dilation measures of emotional information processing in dysphoria
Bistricky, Steven L.
University of Kansas
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Subclinical depressive syndromes such as dysphoria represent increased risk for developing depression and can lead to deleterious mental and physical health outcomes similar to those associated with major depression. Thus, investigating relationships between cognitive processing and dysphoria is important. Studies utilizing sustained pupil dilation as a psychophysiological index of information processing have suggested that depressed individuals process emotional and perhaps specifically negative information for longer than nondepressed individuals. In the current study, 29 dysphoric and 33 nondysphoric individuals completed an emotional information processing task, and pupil dilation and reaction time (RT) data were compared to investigate whether depressotypic phenomena might be detectable prior to the development of depression. The hypothesized dysphoria status by stimulus valence interaction was unsupported. Unexpectedly, gender interacted with dysphoria status to account for variance in pupil dilation and RT. In males, dysphoria had a facilitative effect on early processing of emotional information and appeared to reduce late processing associated with positive stimuli. However in women, dysphoria briefly interfered with the typical female advantage for emotional information processing and increased sustained processing following negative stimuli. Thus, increased risk for depression may be expressed via non-identical cognitive mechanisms in dysphoric men and women. Results suggest that behavioral and physiological investigations intending to elucidate relationships between emotional information processing and vulnerability to depression should not fail to explore gender as a potentially important interacting variable.
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