Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 July 2020
Large population-based cohort studies of neuropsychological factors that characterise or precede depressive symptoms are rare. Most studies use small case-control or cross-sectional designs, which may cause selection bias and cannot test temporality. In a large UK population-based cohort, we investigated cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between inhibitory control of positive and negative information and adolescent depressive symptoms.
Cohort study of 2328 UK adolescents who completed an affective go/no-go task at age 18. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Clinical Interview Schedule Revised (CIS-R) and short Mood and Feeling Questionnaire (sMFQ) at age 18, and with the sMFQ 1 year later (age 19). Analyses were multilevel and traditional linear regressions, before and after adjusting for confounders.
Cross-sectionally, we found little evidence that adolescents with more depressive symptoms made more inhibitory control errors [after adjustments, errors increased by 0.04% per 1 s.d. increase in sMFQ score (95% confidence interval 0.02–0.06)], but this association was not observed for the CIS-R. There was no evidence for an influence of valence. Longitudinally, there was no evidence that reduced inhibitory control was associated with future depressive symptoms.
Inhibitory control of positive and negative information does not appear to be a marker of current or future depressive symptoms in adolescents and would not be a useful target in interventions to prevent adolescent depression. Our lack of convincing evidence for associations with depressive symptoms suggests that the affective go/no-go task is not a promising candidate for future neuroimaging studies of adolescent depression.