A new study suggests that depression can trigger short-term memory loss in people.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas in Dallas. Nicholas Hubbard, a doctoral candidate at the Center for BrainHealth, who is also the lead author of the study, suggests previous studies have linked memory loss with depression. However, the latest research is the first to demonstrate memory loss in people suffering from depression in a laboratory setting.
Hubbard explains that people with or without depressed mood can remember information. However, the presence of depressive thoughts makes it difficult for people to remember, which leads to memory loss.
The study involved 157 undergraduate students. The participants included 60 people who were categorized as with depressed mood, while the rest were categorized as with non-depressed mood.
All the participants were asked to answer "True" or "False" to some questions that included depressive as well as neutral thoughts. After each question the participants were asked to remember several numbers.
The study found that people with depressive mood forgot more numbers when compared to people who were not depressed. The researchers also found that the depressed participants forgot more numbers after answering a question that had depressed thought when compared to after answering a question that had neutral thought. The researchers claim that depressive thoughts can result in short-term memory loss by about 12 percent.
"Depression is an interference phenomenon. Rumination and negative thought-loops interfere with a person's ability to think," says Dr. Bart Rypma, an Associate Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas. "In a traditional laboratory setting, external cues that induce depressive thoughts and therefore interfere with cognitive performance are eliminated. In our study, we found a way to incorporate them and observe their effects on memory."
Millions of people worldwide and in the U.S. suffer from depressive mood. Depression costs the U.S. government about $83 billion each year. Depression can also lead to adverse health conditions as people depressed people may start smoking, consume excess alcohol, experience sleep disorder and remain inactive.
People who suffer from depression find it difficult to concentrate that can result in poor performance at work. Depression can also lead to declined personal and social relationships.
Hubbard explains that understanding depression and then precisely diagnosing memory loss in people with depression is extremely important.
The study has been published in the journal Cognition and Emotion.