Leo Sher, M.D.
A Danish research group published a thought-provoking research paper entitled, “State-dependent alterations in inhibitory control and emotional face identification in seasonal affective disorder” (1). The researchers recruited 29 persons between the ages of 18 and 45 years diagnosed with winter – seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and 30 demographically matched controls with no seasonality symptoms. The study participants completed an emotional Go/NoGo task and an emotional face identification task twice, in winter and summer. The emotional Go/NoGo task provides information on participants’ ability to inhibit prepotent responses for nonemotional and emotional information (2). The emotional face identification task offers information on participants’ ability to correctly identify facial expressions of anger, disgust, fear, sadness and happiness at various intensities (3).
In winter, individuals with SAD demonstrated diminished ability to inhibit responses to angry and sad faces, and reduced identification of happy faces in comparison with controls. In summer, persons with SAD and controls performed similarly on these tasks. The authors concluded that inhibition of angry and sad faces and identification of happy faces are impaired in patients with SAD in the symptomatic phase but not in the remitted phase. Studies of inhibitory control and emotional face identification may offer significant insights into affective cognition.
1. Hjordt LV, Stenbæk DS, Madsen KS, Mc Mahon B, Jensen CG, Vestergaard M, Hageman I, Meder D, Hasselbalch SG, Knudsen GM. State-dependent alterations in inhibitory control and emotional face identification in seasonal affective disorder J Abnorm Psychol. 2017 Feb 9. doi: 10.1037/abn0000251. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Schulz KP, Fan J, Magidina O, Marks DJ, Hahn B, Halperin JM. Does the emotional go/no-go task really measure behavioral inhibition? Convergence with measures on a non-emotional analog. Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2007 Feb;22(2):151-60.
3. Ebner NC, Riediger M, Lindenberger U. FACES–a database of facial expressions in young, middle-aged, and older women and men: development and validation. Behav Res Methods. 2010;Feb;42(1):351-62