The relation between parent depressive symptoms and neural correlates of attentional control in offspring: A preliminary study

Offspring of depressed parents are at significantly elevated risk for depressive disorders themselves; however, the specific mechanisms associated with this risk are not well known. Given the well-established link between parental depression and biased attention for negative stimuli in children, this preliminary study sought to examine the neural correlates of directing attention toward and away from emotional faces in children and adolescents in association with parent's current depressive symptoms. Forty-two youth (age 7-18 years) completed a task with conditions that manipulated whether participants were instructed to match emotional faces (explicit emotion processing) or match shapes in the context of emotional face distractors (implicit emotion processing) during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results revealed a positive correlation between parent depressive symptoms and youths' recruitment of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) during attempts to direct attention away (implicit processing) from negative faces. These findings were maintained after accounting for current anxiety and depressive symptoms among youth suggesting that the findings were not fully attributable to offspring's psychopathology. These preliminary findings suggest that altered dorsal ACC function may contribute to the biased attention for negative information typically demonstrated in youth at high risk for depression by disrupting efficient inhibition of negative stimuli. “