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Cognitive control adjustments and conflict adaptation in major depressive disorder


  • We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Tracy Brown, Christina Catron, Joseph Fair, Isaac Prows, Isaac Hunt, Kirsten Mika, and William David Walker in data collection. This study was supported by funds from the Brigham Young University College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, the Brigham Young University Counseling Center, and a Brigham Young University Mentored Environment Grant. We thank the BYU Comprehensive Clinic and Counseling Center for assistance in participant recruitment.

Address correspondence to: Michael J. Larson, Ph.D., Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Center, Brigham Young University, 244 TLRB, Provo, UT 84602. E-mail:


Individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) show alterations in the cognitive control function of conflict processing. We examined the influence of these deficits on behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) indices of conflict adaptation, a cognitive control process wherein previous-trial congruency modulates current-trial performance, in 55 individuals with MDD and 55 matched controls. ERPs were calculated while participants completed a modified flanker task. There were nonsignificant between-groups differences in response time, error rate, and N2 indices of conflict adaptation. Higher depressive symptom scores were associated with smaller mean N2 conflict adaptation scores for individuals with MDD and when collapsed across groups. Results were consistent when comorbidity and medications were analyzed. These findings suggest N2 conflict adaptation is associated with depressive symptoms rather than clinical diagnosis alone.