Background: The neurophysiological mechanisms of cognitive reactivity, the primary vulnerability factor of major depressive disorder (MDD) recurrence, remain unclear in individuals with recovered MDD (rMDD). Because gamma-band responses (GBRs) can be used to measure cognitive processing, they may also be useful for elucidating the mechanisms underlying cognitive reactivity. Identifying these mechanisms may permit the development of an index for predicting and preempting MDD recurrence. Here, to identify the neurophysiological mechanisms of cognitive reactivity, we examined the characteristics of the GBRs evoked/induced by emotional words in participants with and without rMDD after inducing a negative mood. Methods: Thirty-three healthy control participants and 18 participants with rMDD completed a lexical emotion identification task during electroencephalography along with assessments of cognitive reactivity after negative mood induction. Results: No between-group differences were identified for the task reaction times; however, the rMDD group had significantly higher cognitive reactivity scores than did the control group. Furthermore, the power of late GBRs to positive words was significantly greater in the rMDD group, with the greater power of late GBRs being related to higher cognitive reactivity. Limitations: Considering the population studied, our findings cannot be completely generalized to populations other than adolescents, people with rMDD, and those without a history of co-morbid disorders and early life stress. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the dysfunction of neural circuits related to higher-order processes like memory and attention might underlie cognitive reactivity. Altered late GBRs to positive information may be persistent biomarkers of the depression recurrence risk.
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