Reduced comparison speed during visual search in late life depression.

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Slowed information processing is a prominent deficit in late-life depression (LLD). To better differentiate processing speed components in LLD, we examined characteristics of visual search performance in 32 LLD and 32 control participants. Data showed specific slowing in the comparison stage of visual search in LLD, rather than in encoding/response stages, but also greater overall slowing in LLD during inefficient versus efficient search. We found no group differences on traditional neuropsychological measures of processing speed. Slowed processing speed in LLD may be specific rather than general, which underscores the need to link components of processing speed to underlying neural circuitry.





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Potter, Guy G, David J Madden, Mathew C Costello and David C Steffens (2013). Reduced comparison speed during visual search in late life depression. Journal of clinical and experimental neuropsychology, 35(10). pp. 1060–1070. 10.1080/13803395.2013.856381 Retrieved from

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Guy Glenn Potter

Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

David Joseph Madden

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

My research focuses primarily on the cognitive neuroscience of aging: the investigation of age-related changes in perception, attention, and memory, using both behavioral measures and neuroimaging techniques, including positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

The behavioral measures have focused on reaction time, with the goal of distinguishing age-related changes in specific cognitive abilities from more general effects arising from a slowing in elementary perceptual processes. The cognitive abilities of interest include selective attention as measured in visual search tasks, semantic and episodic memory retrieval, and executive control processes.

The behavioral measures are necessary to define the cognitive abilities of interest, and the neuroimaging techniques help define the functional neuroanatomy of those abilities. The PET and fMRI measures provide information regarding neural activity during cognitive performance. DTI is a recently developed technique that images the structural integrity of white matter. The white matter tracts of the brain provide critical pathways linking the gray matter regions, and thus this work will complement the studies using PET and fMRI that focus on gray matter activation.

A current focus of the research program is the functional connectivity among regions, not only during cognitive task performance but also during rest. These latter measures, referred to as intrinsic functional connectivity, are beginning to show promise as an index of overall brain functional efficiency, which can be assessed without the implementation of a specific cognitive task. From DTI, information can be obtained regarding how anatomical connectivity constrains intrinsic functional connectivity. It will be important to determine the relative influence of white matter pathway integrity, intrinsic functional connectivity, and task-related functional connectivity, as mediators of age-related differences in behavioral measures of cognitive performance.

Ultimately, the research program can help link age-related changes in cognitive performance to changes in the structure and function of specific neural systems. The results also have implications for clinical translation, in terms of the identification of neural biomarkers for the diagnosis of neural pathology and targeting rehabilitation procedures.

David Carl Steffens

Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Geriatric Affective Disorders

Geriatric Cognitive Disorders

Alzheimer's Disease


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