School of Psychological Science

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Sylvie Seguin

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Sylvie Seguin


Investigating the relationships between cognition and affect in depression: is the impact of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy mediated by changes in executive function?


Depression is described as a disorder that affects an individual emotionally, physically, behaviorally and cognitively. Beck's cognitive model of depression illustrates the importance of cognitive distortions as precipitating and maintaining factors to low mood. A client presenting with depressive symptoms may often display rigid and concrete thinking, tendencies to bias information negatively and experience memory problems. In neuropsychological terms, these outlined difficulties have been linked to impairments in executive functions.

Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) utilizes cognitive restructuring exercises that place demands on the executive functions system. For example, during cognitive restructuring exercises, the therapist attempts to have the client recognize the inadequate evidence supporting their negative thought patterns and challenge these with newly generated adaptive thoughts. The cognitive abilities required during these exercises, such as inhibitory control of automatic negative thinking and hypothesis generation of new adaptive thoughts, are abilities categorized as executive functions. The therapeutic outcome of CBT may therefore be mediated by the client's increased and refined use of their executive control abilities.

The objectives of the current research are to investigate the potential role that executive functions play in mood regulation and treatment outcome. Furthermore, we aim to explore whether treatment outcome in CBT for depression is mediated by the client's executive function abilities and/or improvements and if CBT therefore reduces depressive symptomatology by refining the use of executive functions.

Why my research is important

This research is important because it will not only provide a better understanding of the role of executive functions in depression and how its impairments may perpetuate symptoms but will also provide a better understanding of the executive function system's role in treatment outcome. This study may also offer an understanding of why some clients are more responsive to treatment than others, and offer possible avenues to enhance treatment to further improve the well-being of those with depressive symptoms.


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Last updated:
Friday, 23 January, 2015 3:27 PM