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Articles   |    
Effect of Antidepressant Medication Use on Emotional Information Processing in Major Depression
Tony T. Wells, Ph.D.; Elise M. Clerkin, Ph.D.; Alissa J. Ellis, Ph.D.; Christopher G. Beevers, Ph.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2014;171:195-200. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12091243
View Author and Article Information

The authors report no financial relationships with commercial interests.

Supported in part by NIMH grant R01MH076897 and National Institute on Drug Abuse grant R01DA032457 to Dr. Beevers.

From the Department of Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater; the Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles; and the Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin.

Address correspondence to Dr. Wells (tony.wells@okstate.edu).

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

Received September 25, 2012; Revised May 15, 2013; Revised June 24, 2013; Accepted July 09, 2013.

Abstract

Objective  Acute administration of antidepressant medication increases emotional information processing for positive information in both depressed and healthy persons. This effect is likely relevant to the therapeutic actions of these medications, but it has not been studied in patients with major depressive disorder taking antidepressants as typically prescribed in the community.

Method  The authors used eye tracking to examine the effects of antidepressant medication on selective attention for emotional stimuli in a sample of 47 patients with major depressive disorder (21 medicated and 26 unmedicated) and 47 matched comparison subjects without depression. Participants completed a passive-viewing eye-tracking task assessing selective attention for positive, dysphoric, threatening, and neutral stimuli in addition to providing medication information and self-report measures of depression and anxiety severity.

Results  Depressed participants currently taking antidepressants and nondepressed comparison subjects demonstrated greater total gaze duration and more fixations for positive stimuli compared with unmedicated depressed participants. Depressed participants on medication also had fewer fixations for dysphoric stimuli compared with depressed participants not on medication.

Conclusions  Antidepressants, as prescribed in the community to patients with depression, appear to modify emotional information processing in the absence of differences in depression severity. These results are consistent with previous work and indicate a robust effect for antidepressants on positive information processing. They also provide further evidence for modification of information processing as a potential mechanism of action for antidepressant medication.

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FIGURE 1. Mean Total Gaze Duration, by 5-Second Epoch and Stimulus Type, in Never-Depressed Comparison Subjects and Medicated and Unmedicated Patients With Major Depression
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TABLE 1.Demographic and Clinical Characteristics of Never-Depressed Comparison Subjects and Medicated and Unmedicated Patients With Major Depressiona
Table Footer Note

a Within rows, means with different subscripts are significantly different at p<0.05 between groups.

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TABLE 2.Eye-Tracking Results for Never-Depressed Comparison Subjects and Medicated and Unmedicated Patients With Major Depressiona
Table Footer Note

a Within rows, means with different subscripts are significantly different at p<0.05 between groups.

Table Footer Note

b For the medicated depression group, N=13 for data on mean number of fixations.

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