Hand gesture performance is impaired in major depressive disorder: A matter of working memory performance?

Anastasia Pavlidou*, Petra V. Viher, Hanta Bachofner, Florian Weiss, Katharina Stegmayer, Stewart A. Shankman, Vijay A. Mittal, Sebastian Walther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: Individuals with depression exhibit numerous interpersonal deficits. As effective use of gestures is critical for social communication, it is possible that depressed individuals’ interpersonal deficits may be due to deficits in gesture performance. The present study thus compared gesture performance of depressed patients and controls and examined whether these deficits relate to cognitive and other domains of dysfunction. Methods: Gesture performance was evaluated in 30 depressed patients and 30 controls using the Test of Upper Limb Apraxia (TULIA). Clinical rating scales were assessed to determine if gesture deficits were associated with motor, cognitive or functional outcomes. Results: Compared to controls, depressed patients exhibited impaired gesture performance with 2/3 of the patients demonstrating gesture deficits. Within depressed patients, gesture performance was highly correlated with working memory abilities. In contrast, no association between gesture performance and gestural knowledge, psychomotor retardation, depression severity, or frontal dysfunction was observed in patients. Limitations: This is a cross-sectional study and a larger size would have allowed for confident detection of more subtle, but potentially relevant effects. Conclusion: Gesture performance is impaired in depressed patients, and appears to be related to poor working memory abilities, suggesting a disruption in the retrieval of gestural cues indicative of a distinct clinical phenomenon that might be related to social functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-88
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Depression
  • Gesture
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Social functioning
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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