Emotional Infant Face Processing in Women With Major Depression and Expecting Parents With Depressive Symptoms
AuthorBohne, Agnes; Nordahl, Dag; Lindahl, Åsne; Ulvenes, Pål Gunnar; Wang, Catharina Elisabeth Arfwedson; Pfuhl, Gerit
Processing of emotional facial expressions is of great importance in interpersonal relationships. Aberrant engagement with facial expressions, particularly an engagement with sad faces, loss of engagement with happy faces, and enhanced memory of sadness has been found in depression. Since most studies used adult faces, we here examined if such biases also occur in processing of infant faces in those with depression or depressive symptoms. In study 1, we recruited 25 inpatient women with major depression and 25 matched controls. In study 2, we extracted a sample of expecting parents from the NorBaby study, where 29 reported elevated levels of depressive symptoms, and 29 were matched controls. In both studies, we assessed attentional bias with a dot-probe task using happy, sad and neutral infant faces, and facial memory bias with a recognition task using happy, sad, angry, afraid, surprised, disgusted and neutral infant and adult faces. Participants also completed the Ruminative Responses Scale and Becks Depression Inventory-II. In study 1, we found no group difference in either attention to or memory accuracy for emotional infant faces. Neither attention nor recognition was associated with rumination. In study 2, we found that the group with depressive symptoms disengaged more slowly than healthy controls from sad infant faces, and this was related to rumination. The results place emphasis on the importance of emotional self-relevant material when examining cognitive processing in depression. Together, these studies demonstrate that a mood-congruent attentional bias to infant faces is present in expecting parents with depressive symptoms, but not in inpatients with Major Depression Disorder who do not have younger children.