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Methods: Depressed patients (n=14) and non-depressed controls (n=14) were compared on a random number generation task, performed after both a rumination induction and after a distraction induction, with order of inductions counter balanced within each group.
Results: Compared with the distraction induction, the rumination induction produced a significant increase in both ruminations and the tendency towards stereotyped counting responses (thought to reflect a failure of inhibitory executive control) in depressed patients but not in controls. However, after distraction, no difference in random number generation or rumination was found between the two groups.
Conclusions: The aspects of executive function involved in random number generation are not fundamentally impaired in depressed patients. In depressed patients, the rumination induction seems to trigger the continued generation of ruminative stimulus independent thoughts, which interferes with concurrent executive processing.