Comorbid anxiety moderates the relationship between depression history and prefrontal EEG asymmetry

Robin Nusslock*, Alexander J. Shackman, Brenton W. McMenamin, Lawrence L. Greischar, Richard J. Davidson, Maria Kovacs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

The internalizing spectrum of psychiatric disorders—depression and anxiety—are common, highly comorbid, and challenging to treat. Individuals with childhood onset depression have a particularly poor prognosis. There is compelling evidence that individuals with depression display reduced resting-state EEG activity at sensors overlying the left prefrontal cortex, even during periods of remission, but it remains unknown whether this asymmetry is evident among individuals with a comorbid anxiety disorder. Here, we demonstrate that women with a history of childhood onset depression and no anxiety disorder (n = 37) show reduced left lateral frontal activity compared to psychiatrically healthy controls (n = 69). In contrast, women with a history of childhood onset depression and pathological levels of anxious apprehension (n = 18)—as indexed by a current generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or separation anxiety disorder diagnosis—were statistically indistinguishable from healthy controls. Collectively, these observations suggest that anxious apprehension can mask the relationship between prefrontal EEG asymmetry and depression. These findings have implications for understanding (a) prefrontal EEG asymmetry as a neurophysiological marker of depression, (b) the comorbidity of depression and anxiety, and (c) failures to replicate the relationship between prefrontal EEG asymmetry and depression. More broadly, they set the stage for developing refined interventions for internalizing psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12953
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2018

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Keywords

  • anxiety
  • comorbidity
  • depression
  • frontal EEG asymmetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

Cite this

Nusslock, R., Shackman, A. J., McMenamin, B. W., Greischar, L. L., Davidson, R. J., & Kovacs, M. (2018). Comorbid anxiety moderates the relationship between depression history and prefrontal EEG asymmetry. Psychophysiology, 55(1), [e12953]. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12953