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Autobiographical memory specificity in response to verbal and pictorial cues in clinical depression

Ridout N, Dritschel B, Matthews KB & O'Carroll R (2016) Autobiographical memory specificity in response to verbal and pictorial cues in clinical depression. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 51, pp. 109-115.

Background:  Depressed individuals have been consistently shown to exhibit problems in accessing specific memories of events from their past and instead tend to retrieve categorical summaries of events. The majority of studies examining autobiographical memory changes associated with psychopathology have tended to use word cues, but only one study to date has used images (with PTSD patients).  Objective: to determine if using images to cue autobiographical memories would reduce the memory specificity deficit exhibited by patients with depression in comparison to healthy controls.  Methods:  Twenty-five clinically depressed patients and twenty-five healthy controls were assessed on two versions of the autobiographical memory test; cued with emotional words and images.  Results:  Depressed patients retrieved significantly fewer specific memories, and a greater number of categorical, than did the controls. Controls retrieved a greater proportion of specific memories to images compared to words, whereas depressed patients retrieved a similar proportion of specific memories to both images and words. Limitations: no information about the presence and severity of past trauma was collected.  Conclusions:  results suggest that the overgeneral memory style in depression generalises from verbal to pictorial cues. This is important because retrieval to images may provide a more ecologically valid test of everyday memory experiences than word-cued retrieval.

Overgeneral memory; Specificity; Depression; Autobiographical memory test; Imagery

Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry: Volume 51

Author(s)Ridout, Nathan; Dritschel, Barbara; Matthews, Keith B; O'Carroll, Ronan
Publication date30/06/2016
Publication date online13/01/2016
Date accepted by journal10/01/2016

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