University of Oulu

Ye, C., Xu, Q., Li, X., Vuoriainen, E., Liu, Q., & Astikainen, P. (2023). Alterations in working memory maintenance of fearful face distractors in depressed participants: An ERP study. Journal of Vision, 23(1):10, 1–17,

Alterations in working memory maintenance of fearful face distractors in depressed participants : an ERP study

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Author: Ye, Chaoxiong1,2,3,4; Xu, Qianru3; Li, Xueqiao2;
Organizations: 1Institute of Brain and Psychological Sciences, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu, China
2Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
3Center for Machine Vision and Signal Analysis, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-04-05


Task-irrelevant threatening faces (e.g., fearful) are difficult to filter from visual working memory (VWM), but the difficulty in filtering non-threatening negative faces (e.g., sad) is not known. Depressive symptoms could also potentially affect the ability to filter different emotional faces. We tested the filtering of task-irrelevant sad and fearful faces by depressed and control participants performing a color-change detection task. The VWM storage of distractors was indicated by contralateral delay activity, a specific event-related potential index for the number of objects stored in VWM during the maintenance phase. The control group did not store sad face distractors, but they automatically stored fearful face distractors, suggesting that threatening faces are specifically difficult to filter from VWM in non-depressed individuals. By contrast, depressed participants showed no additional consumption of VWM resources for either the distractor condition or the non-distractor condition, possibly suggesting that neither fearful nor sad face distractors were maintained in VWM. Our control group results confirm previous findings of a threat-related filtering difficulty in the normal population while also suggesting that task-irrelevant non-threatening negative faces do not automatically load into VWM. The novel finding of the lack of negative distractors within VWM storage in participants with depressive symptoms may reflect a decreased overall responsiveness to negative facial stimuli. Future studies should investigate the mechanisms underlying distractor filtering in depressed populations.

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Series: Journal of vision
ISSN: 1534-7362
ISSN-E: 1534-7362
ISSN-L: 1534-7362
Volume: 23
Issue: 1
Pages: 1 - 17
Article number: 10
DOI: 10.1167/jov.23.1.10
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
3112 Neurosciences
Funding: Supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31700948) and the Academy of Finland (333649 to CY).
Copyright information: © 2023 The Author(s). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.