Attentional modulation by reward and punishment cues in relation to depressive symptoms

Ana Maria Brailean, Ernst H. W. Koster, Kristof Hoorelbeke, Rudi De Raedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objectives
Research indicates that individuals at-risk for depression are characterized by high sensitivity to loss and reduced sensitivity to reward. Moreover, it has been shown that attentional bias plays an important role in depression vulnerability. The current study aimed to examine the interplay between these risk factors for depression by examining the development of attentional bias toward reward and loss signals in dysphoric participants (individuals with elevated levels of depressive symptoms).

Shapes were conditioned to reward and loss and subsequently presented in a dot probe task in a sample of dysphoric and nondysphoric participants.

Nondysphoric individuals oriented towards reward-related signals whereas dysphoric individuals failed to develop a reward-related attentional bias. This attentional effect was observed in the absence of group differences in motivational factors. No group differences were found for attentional bias for loss-related signals, despite the fact that dysphoric individuals performed worse in response to losing.

The current sample is not clinical thus generalization to clinical depression is not warranted.

We argue that impaired early attentional processing of rewards are an important cognitive risk factor for anhedonic symptoms in persons with dysphoria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-359
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date27 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


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