Electrophysiological evidence for abnormal error monitoring in recurrent major depressive disorder


This work was mainly funded by a research grant from the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD Independent Investigator Award to M. L.) and in part by University of Nottingham Division of Psychiatry funds. Address correspondence to: Elena Georgiadi, Ph.D., Division of Psychiatry, Behavioural Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, South block, A Floor, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, United Kingdom. E-mail: elena.georgiadi@nottingham.ac.uk


Previous neuroimaging work has identified anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) abnormalities in recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD), implicating a persistent underlying predisposition to depression. Error-monitoring studies in MDD, as indexed by error-related negativity (ERN), have yielded conflicting results, probably because of task differences or confounds in patient samples. ERN patterns were examined in remitted (n=19) and acutely depressed (n=17) patients, classified as a function of illness stage, and their matched controls in a go/no-go task using high-density ERPs. Results showed an abnormally larger ERN (p<.05) in remitted patients, especially in younger cases. Overall, ERN was found to decrease with age across all groups. The findings of increased ERN in remitted depression may implicate an overactive ACC associated with a hypervigilant error-monitoring system. The observed tendency of ERN reduction in a severe depressive state failed to reach statistical significance.