Major Depression Affects Perceptual Filling-In


      Major depression disorder is a syndrome that involves impairment of cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and plasticity. In this study, we explored whether depression affects perception as well.


      We used a recently developed paradigm that assesses the filling-in process by probing false-positive reports (false alarm [FA]), hit rates (pHit), sensitivity (d′), and decision criteria (Cr). We used a Yes-No paradigm in a low-level detection task involving a Gabor target, in the presence of collinear flankers, inducing filling-in, with differing target-flanker separations of 3–15 λ(wavelength). The depressive state of patients was assessed using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Two groups were tested: an experimental group with major depression (n = 27) and a control group (n = 32).


      The performances of the control and the experimental groups were not significantly different regarding d′. In contrast, a specific pattern of significant differences between the control group and the hospitalized group was found for the decision criterion, pHit, and pFA, but only for target-flanker separations of 3 λ, whereas the results for the other separations were insignificant. The differences between the control and the depressed groups are not due to a global cognitive dysfunction in depression.


      The results suggest that the filling-in process is deficient, probably because of reduced excitation among neurons. Neural excitation is a key factor in the neural processing involved in memory and decision making. In addition, it is still possible that the patients may be unable to match their internal representation to the changing sensory information.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Biological Psychiatry
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Naranjo C.A.
        • Tremblay L.K.
        • Busto U.E.
        The role of the brain reward system in depression.
        Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2001; 25: 781-823
        • Tancer M.E.
        • Brown T.M.
        • Evans D.L.
        • Ekstrom D.
        • Haggerty Jr, J.J.
        • Pedersen C.
        • Golden R.N.
        Impaired effortful cognition in depression.
        Psychiatry Res. 1990; 31: 161-168
        • Thomas P.
        • Goudemand M.
        • Rousseaux M.
        Attentional resources in major depression.
        Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 1999; 249: 79-85
        • Brand A.N.
        • Jolles J.
        • Gispen-de Wied C.
        Recall and recognition memory deficits in depression.
        J Affect Disord. 1992; 25: 77-86
        • Alloy L.B.
        • Abramson L.Y.
        Judgment of contingency in depressed and nondepressed students: Sadder but wiser?.
        J Exp Psychol. 1979; 108: 441-485
        • Alloy L.B.
        • Abramson L.Y.
        Depressive realism: Four theoretical perspectives.
        in: Alloy L.B. Cognitive Processes in Depression. Guilford Press, New York1988: 223-265
        • Polat U.
        • Sagi D.
        Lateral interactions between spatial channels: Suppression and facilitation revealed by lateral masking experiments.
        Vision Res. 1993; 33: 993-999
        • Dresp B.
        • Bonnet C.
        Psychophysical measures of illusory form perception: Further evidence for local mechanisms.
        Vision Res. 1993; 33: 759-766
        • Ramachandran V.S.
        • Ruskin D.
        • Cobb S.
        • Rogers-Ramachandran D.
        • Tyler C.W.
        On the perception of illusory contours.
        Vision Res. 1994; 34: 3145-3152
        • Polat U.
        • Sagi D.
        The relationship between the subjective and objective aspects of visual filling-in.
        Vision Res. 2007; 47: 2473-2481
        • Freeman E.
        • Sagi D.
        • Driver J.
        Lateral interactions between targets and flankers in low-level vision depend on attention to the flankers.
        Nat Neurosci. 2001; 4: 1032-1036
        • Polat U.
        Functional architecture of long-range perceptual interactions.
        Spat Vis. 1999; 12: 143-162
        • Pessoa L.
        • Thompson E.
        • Noe A.
        Finding out about filling-in: A guide to perceptual completion for visual science and the philosophy of perception.
        Behav Brain Sci. 1998; 21 (discussion 748–802): 723-748
        • Kanizsa G.
        Organization in Vision: Essays on Gestalt Perception.
        Praeger, New York1979
        • Green D.M.
        • Swets J.A.
        Signal Detection Theory.
        Wiley, New York1966
        • Gorea A.
        • Sagi D.
        Failure to handle more than one internal representation in visual detection tasks.
        Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000; 97: 12380-12384
        • Gorea A.
        • Sagi D.
        Disentangling signal from noise in visual contrast discrimination.
        Nat Neurosci. 2001; 4: 1146-1150
        • Gorea A.
        • Caetta F.
        • Sagi D.
        Criteria interactions across visual attributes.
        Vision Res. 2005; 45: 2523-2532
        • Adini Y.
        • Wilkonsky A.
        • Haspel R.
        • Tsodyks M.
        • Sagi D.
        Perceptual learning in contrast discrimination: The effect of contrast uncertainty.
        J Vis. 2004; 4: 993-1005
        • Phillips W.A.
        • Singer W.
        In search of common foundations for cortical computation.
        Behav Brain Sci. 1997; 20 (discussion 683–722): 657-683
        • Hamilton M.
        A rating scale for depression.
        J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1960; 23: 56-62
        • Ress D.
        • Backus B.T.
        • Heeger D.J.
        Activity in primary visual cortex predicts performance in a visual detection task.
        Nat Neurosci. 2000; 3: 940-945
        • Ress D.
        • Heeger D.J.
        Neuronal correlates of perception in early visual cortex.
        Nat Neurosci. 2003; 6: 414-420
        • Zomet A.
        • Amiaz R.
        • Polat U.
        Early perceptual loss in depression.
        Neural Plasticity. 2007; 1: 121
        • Polat U.
        • Sagi D.
        The architecture of perceptual spatial interactions.
        Vision Res. 1994; 34: 73-78
        • Chen C.C.
        • Kasamatsu T.
        • Polat U.
        • Norcia A.M.
        Contrast response characteristics of long-range lateral interactions in cat striate cortex.
        Neuroreport. 2001; 12: 655-661
        • Pelli D.G.
        Uncertainty explains many aspects of visual contrast detection and discrimination.
        J Opt Soc Am A. 1985; 2: 1508-1532
        • Sterkin A.
        • Sterkin A.
        • Polat U.
        Response similarity as a basis for perceptual binding [published online ahead of print June 5].
        J Vis. 2008;
        • Allan L.G.
        • Siegel S.
        • Hannah S.
        The sad truth about depressive realism.
        Q J Exp Psychol. 2007; 60: 482-495
        • Giersch A.
        A new pharmacological tool to investigate integration processes.
        Visual Cogn. 1999; 6: 267-297
        • Beckers T.
        • Wagemans J.
        • Boucart M.
        • Giersch A.
        Different effects of lorazepam and diazepam on perceptual integration.
        Vision Res. 2001; 41: 2297-2303
        • Giersch A.
        • Herzog M.H.
        Lorazepam strongly prolongs visual information processing.
        Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004; 29: 1386-1394
        • Sanacora G.
        • Mason G.F.
        • Rothman D.L.
        • Behar K.L.
        • Hyder F.
        • Petroff O.A.
        • et al.
        Reduced cortical gamma-aminobutyric acid levels in depressed patients determined by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.
        Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999; 56: 1043-1047
        • Hemsley D.R.
        The development of a cognitive model of schizophrenia: Placing it in context.
        Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005; 29 ([review]): 977-988