Emotion processing bias in depressed and anxious epilepsy patients

Jesse G Brand, Fordham University


Although emotion processing impairments are common to both epilepsy populations and those in emotional distress, and despite high rates of depression and anxiety in epilepsy, no previous study has examined emotion processing biases in depressed and anxious epilepsy patients. The current study comprehensively examined whether the mood-congruent and threat-related biases in emotion processing associated with depression and anxiety extend to individuals with epilepsy who report symptoms of depression and anxiety, and investigated the potentially moderating effects of age of seizure onset on these biases. The present study also examined associations between emotion processing bias, psychiatric symptomatology, and quality of life. Measures used in the current study included an emotion processing task, the Comprehensive Affect Testing System – Abbreviated, from which indices of mood-congruent and threat-related bias were derived. Depression and anxiety were measured by the Beck Depression Inventory – 2nd Edition and Beck Anxiety Inventory, respectively. Quality of life was measured by the Quality of Life in Epilepsy – 10-item questionnaire. Data from 101 epilepsy patients were analyzed, including 61 females and 40 males. The mean age of the sample was 35.9 years, with a mean education level of 15.0 years. While a number of hypotheses were not supported, results of the current study add partial support to prior research showing mood-congruent and threat-related biases in individuals reporting elevated levels of depression and anxiety, respectively, and demonstrate the presence of these biases in an epilepsy population. Additionally, the current findings lend support to previous work demonstrating impaired emotion processing in epilepsy patients with early age of onset. First, among participants with depression, those with the earliest ages of onset showed mood-congruent biases in the facial affect domain. Second, higher levels of anxiety were associated with better performance on threat-related items within the prosody modality. Third, there was a trend-level association between quality of life and cross-modal mood-congruent bias and quality of life. In addition, both depression and anxiety were correlated with quality of life. Implications of the current study for the assessment and care of epilepsy patients are outlined, and suggestions for future research in this area are posited.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Brand, Jesse G, "Emotion processing bias in depressed and anxious epilepsy patients" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3495883.