Individuals with depression display abnormal modulation of neural oscillatory activity during working memory encoding and maintenance

O.W. Murphy, Kate Hoy, D. Wong, Neil Bailey, Paul B. Fitzgerald, Rebecca Segrave

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To investigate neural oscillatory activity supporting working memory (WM) processing in depressed individuals and healthy controls.

Forty-six participants with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and 41 healthy controls balanced on age, gender, and WM ability completed a Sternberg verbal WM task with concurrent electroencephalography recording. Oscillatory activity was calculated for upper alpha, theta, and gamma frequency bands during WM encoding and maintenance.

WM performance did not differ between groups. When compared to healthy controls, depressed individuals displayed reduced frontal-midline theta power and increased occipital upper alpha power during WM encoding, and reductions in frontal-midline theta power and occipital gamma and upper alpha power during WM maintenance. Higher depression severity was associated with greater reductions upper alpha and gamma power during WM maintenance.

Depressed individuals displayed prominent alterations in oscillatory activity during WM encoding and maintenance, indicating that the neural processes which support WM processing are altered in MDD even when no cognitive impairments are observed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107766
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Alpha
  • Cognitive
  • Depression
  • EEG
  • Gamma
  • Oscillations
  • Sternberg task
  • Theta
  • Working memory

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