The Neural Basis of Difficulties Disengaging From Negative Irrelevant Material in Major Depression

Lara C. Foland-Ross, J. Paul Hamilton, Jutta Joormann, Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, Ian H. Gotlib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Recurrent uncontrollable negative thoughts are a hallmark of depressive episodes. Deficits in cognitive control have been proposed to underlie this debilitating aspect of depression. Here, we used functional neuroimaging during an emotional working memory (WM) task to elucidate the neural correlates of these difficulties in cognitive control. In a WM manipulation involving depressed participants, the dorsal anterior cingulate and parietal and bilateral insular cortices were activated significantly more when negative words were removed from WM than when they were maintained in WM; in contrast, nondepressed participants exhibited stronger neural activations in these regions for positive than for negative material. These findings implicate anomalous activation of components of the task-positive network, known to be modulated by cognitive effort, in depression-associated difficulties in expelling negative material from WM. Future studies should examine the association between these aberrations and the maintenance of depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-344
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • brain
  • depression
  • dorsal anterior cingulate cortex
  • functional MRI
  • insula
  • neuroimaging
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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