Further evidence of attention bias for negative information in late life depression

Niall M Broomfield, Rachel Davies, Kenneth MacMahon, Farah Ali, Susan M B Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Pilot research using the manual (card based) emotional Stroop paradigm shows depressed elders selectively attend negative words, whereas dementia patients do not. The present study aimed to confirm this effect, using a more controlled, computerised, emotional Stroop paradigm, and accounting for co-morbid anxiety.

METHOD: Nineteen depressed (DEP) and twenty non depressed control participants (CON) completed a computerised Emotional Stroop task. This task involves colour naming individually presented negative, positive and neutral words. Mean participant age was 72.25 years. All participants were free of significant cognitive impairment.

RESULTS: Consistent with hypotheses, analysis of variance revealed a general cognitive slowing amongst DEP, and a specific interference effect for negative words, in this group, suggesting attention bias.

CONCLUSIONS: Previous pilot data are confirmed. The emotional Stroop paradigm may have clinical potential for distinguishing geriatric depression and dementia, although as yet this is far from clear. Detailed development work including comparison with depressed and non depressed Alzheimer's patients, will be necessary to demonstrate diagnostic validity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-180
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date10 Nov 2006
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety
  • Attention
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Color Perception
  • Dementia/diagnosis
  • Depression/diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prejudice
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reaction Time

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