Error-related negativity and anhedonia in treatment-resistant individuals with major depressive disorder undergoing ketamine treatment

Jason Scott, BA

McLean Hospital – Research Assistant
Scott_Jason poster

Scientific Abstract

Background: The error-related negativity (ERN) is an event-related potential (ERP) component elicited from error in speeded cognitive tasks that probes response monitoring in major depressive disorder (MDD). Anhedonia (loss of pleasure) has also been shown to impact cognitive dysfunction in patients with MDD. Research suggests that an increased ERN amplitude in MDD is reflective of these cognitive deficits. Here, participants completed a cognitive control task and self-report measures of anhedonia and depression severity. Our goal was to evaluate how MDD affects ERN and whether anhedonia amplifies ERN abnormalities.

Methods: Six patients with MDD from the McLean Hospital Ketamine Clinic and 24 healthy controls (HC) completed the Snaith Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS) and the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), measures of anhedonia and depression severity, respectively. Then, they completed the Eriksen Flanker task while continuous EEG was recorded. Cognitive control was indexed by the ERN and Flanker interference accuracy scores. We examined associations between Flanker interference, SHAPS score, BDI-II score, and ERN.

Results: Compared to the HCs, the MDD group showed significantly greater depression severity, t(5)=6.64, p<.010, and greater anhedonia, t(25)=6.83, p<.001. In both groups, greater Flanker interference (poor cognitive performance) was associated with a greater ERN (MDD: R=-0.92, p<.01; HC: R=-0.48, p<.050). The groups did not differ in ERN amplitude, t(25)=0.77, p=.459).

Conclusion: Given that ERN amplitude is heightened in MDD, we expected the MDD group would show higher ERN amplitudes relative to the HC group, and that such potentiation would be associated with greater depression and anhedonia scores. Although there was no significant group difference in ERN amplitudes, the MDD group did show significantly higher anhedonia and depression severity. Despite low statistical power, the relationship between cognitive performance and ERN in MDD and HC groups shows promise for further exploring how underlying symptoms of depression affect cognitive ability.

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research Areas


Jason N. Scott, Jr., BA, Shiba M. Esfand, BA Samantha R. Linton, PhD, Rachel Lobien, BA Steven J. Lamontagne, PhD, Shuang Li, MD, Brian Boyle, MD, Courtney Miller, RN, Paula Bolton, CNP, Robert Meisner, MD, Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD

Principal Investigator

Diego Pizzagalli, PhD