BACKGROUND: 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.
METHODS: 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.
RESULTS: 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.
CONCLUSIONS: 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.