Behavioral activation system deficits predict the six-month course of depression

Brian R. McFarland*, Stewart A Shankman, Craig E. Tenke, Gerard E. Bruder, Daniel N. Klein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Background: Behavioral activation system (BAS) deficits are hypothesized to increase risk for depression. This study tested the hypothesis that BAS deficits, measured with both self-report and electrophysiological methods, would predict the six-month course of depression. Methods: 67 participants with major depressive disorder (MDD) with or without pre-existing dysthymia were assessed at baseline with Carver and White's [Carver, C.S., White, T.L., 1994. Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 67, 319-333.] BIS/BAS scales and resting EEG. The week-by-week course of their depressive symptoms was assessed six months later with the Longitudinal Interval Follow-up Evaluation (LIFE). Results: Baseline self-reported BAS sensitivity predicted depression diagnosis (MDD or dysthymia) at follow-up, number of MDD symptoms at follow-up, average weekly level of depression, and time to recovery. These effects persisted after controlling for baseline clinical variables associated with a worse course. Baseline resting EEG alpha asymmetry did not significantly predict the course of depression. Limitations: Although BAS sensitivity predicted the subsequent course of depression, we cannot determine whether it played a causal role in maintaining depression. Conclusions: Lower self-reported BAS sensitivity predicts a worse course of depression but EEG asymmetries do not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-234
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006


  • Approach
  • BAS
  • Course
  • Depression
  • EEG asymmetries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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