Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Jonathan Rottenberg, Ph.D.

Keywords

Subthreshold depression, Depression severity, Emotional responding, Eyeblink reflex, Positive affect

Abstract

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a disorder defined by mood disturbance, but the deficits in emotional reactivity that accompany MDD are not yet fully characterized. Researchers have utilized the emotion-modulated startle paradigm to investigate emotional responding among depressed individuals with mixed results. Inconsistent results may be due in part to the heterogeneity of mood disorders, including variation in mood severity. The current study utilized an emotion-modulated startle procedure with 33 individuals currently experiencing a major depressive episode, 25 individuals currently experiencing a minor depressive episode (mD), and 31 healthy controls. Severity of depression, anxiety, and positive and negative mood states were ascertained on the sample. Emotion-modulated startle failed to differentiate between mood disordered individuals and healthy controls. However, results found a significant association between abnormal patterns of emotion responding and positive affect (PA), such that individuals with low PA showed exaggerated responding to unpleasant stimuli. The results suggest that PA may be an important dimension in mood disorders that underlies abnormal emotional responses.

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