Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Original Article

Mechanisms in Emotional Information Processing in Individuals with Major Depressive Disorder: An Event- Related Potential Study of an Information Processing Model


Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Neuropsychiatric Rehabilitation Laboratory, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong SAR, China


Department of Psychiatry of United Christian Hospital, Yung Fung Shee Psychiatric Centre, The Hong Kong Hospital Authority, Hong Kong SAR, China

Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology 2023; 33: 94-107
DOI: 10.5152/pcp.2023.22471
Read: 1358 Downloads: 626 Published: 16 June 2023

Background: Individuals with major depressive disorder have a cognitive bias toward emotional stimuli, which influences the quality and speed of emotional information processing. This study aimed to understand the factors underlying this bias by identifying when it occurs during information processing using an information processing model.

Methods: A total of 57 participants-19 each [ (16 (84.21%) females and 3 (15.79%) males per group)], for the first-episode MDD (FMDD), recurrent episodes MDD (RMDD), and healthy controls (HCs) - matched for sex and hand preference, completed event-related potentials (ERP) to perform psychological function and a choice response time task.

Results: Results revealed that recurrent episodes major depressive disorder participants had decreased N2b and P3b amplitudes but increased contingent negative variation during the processing of happy and neutral facial stimuli, relative to their counterparts. Both recurrent episodes major depressive disorder and first-episode major depressive disorder participants used a parallel information processing strategy for happy information at P3a latency, while healthy controls used a linear information processing strategy.

Conclusion: The use of a parallel processing strategy among individuals with major depressive disorder may have led to impaired “happy” information processes, possibly explaining why individuals with major depressive disorder are less efficient than healthy controls. The results suggest the possibility that biases related to the processing of “happy” information among individuals with major depressive disorder may be related to a tendency for these individuals to engage in superficial decision-making. Future research is needed to examine the processes contributing to people with major depressive disorder having challenges with inhibition-facilitation of emotional stimuli.

Cite this article as: Ahorsu DK, Chung KHM, Wong HH, et al. Mechanisms in emotional information processing in individuals with major depressive disorder: An event-related potential study of an information processing model. Psychiatry Clin Psychopharmacol. 2023;33(2):94-107.

EISSN 2475-0581