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BMC Psychiatry. 2011; 11: 78.
Published online May 9, 2011. doi:  10.1186/1471-244X-11-78
PMCID: PMC3115848
Alertness and visuospatial attention in clinical depression
Lisa Schock,corresponding author1,2 Michael Schwenzer,1,2 Walter Sturm,#3 and Klaus Mathiak#1,2,4
1Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Medical School, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2JARA - Translational Brain Medicine, Jülich, Germany
3Department of Neurology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Medical School, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
4Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine, INM-1, Research Centre Jülich, Jülich, Germany
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
#Contributed equally.
Lisa Schock: lschock/at/ukaachen.de; Michael Schwenzer: mschwenzer/at/ukaachen.de; Walter Sturm: sturm/at/neuropsych.rwth-aachen.de; Klaus Mathiak: kmathiak/at/ukaachen.de
Received October 18, 2010; Accepted May 9, 2011.
Abstract
Background
Cognitive deficits are a substantial burden in clinical depression. The present study considered dysfunction in the right-hemispheric attention network in depression, examining alertness and visuospatial attention.
Methods
Three computerized visuospatial attention tests and an alertness test were administered to 16 depressive patients and 16 matched healthy controls.
Results
Although no significant group effect was observed, alertness predicted reduced visuospatial performance in the left hemifield. Furthermore, sad mood showed a trend towards predicting left visual field omissions.
Conclusions
Decreased alertness may lead to lower left hemifield visuospatial attention; this mechanism may be responsible for a spatial bias to the right side in depression, even though treatment of depression and anxiety may reduce this cognitive deficit.
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