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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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142. Reduced Visuospatial Working Memory Performance Relates to Increased Blunted Affect in Unipolar Depression

Blunted affect (i.e., reduced expression of emotion) is common across a range of psychiatric disorders, but the underlying cause is not well understood. A recent theory proposes that blunted affect can be secondary to reduced working memory (WM) capacity. The current study examined this relationship in 71 participants (53.5% female, age range 21-55) comprised of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (n = 24), bipolar disorders (n = 26), and unipolar depression (n = 21). Blunted affect was measured with the clinician-administered Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, and WM with Symbol Span (SS) and Letter-Number Sequencing (LNS). Linear regression, predicting blunted affect, entered diagnostic class, sex, and estimated IQ, followed by SS and LNS, and interactions of SS and LNS with diagnostic class. Results revealed no effects for LNS, but a significant interaction of SS and diagnostic class. This relationship was only significant within the unipolar depression group - reduced SS related to increased blunted affect. Although this study cannot address causality, findings are consistent with the general existing theory that reduced working memory capacity can partially explain blunted affect. However, the current findings suggest that this may be stronger with, or limited to, visuospatial working memory and individuals with unipolar depression.

Stephanie Schiffert
University of Central Florida

Christopher Spencer
University of Central Florida

Samantha Simpson
University of Central Florida

Jeffrey Bedwell
University of Central Florida

 


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