Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)



First Advisor

Wilson McDermut

Second Advisor

John G Keilp

Third Advisor

Raymond DiGiuseppe


Neurocognitive deficits may qualify as vulnerability markers in individuals at risk for developing MDD. We examined the extent to which characteristic neurocognitive difficulties in MDD may be apparent in early to late adolescence in the offspring of a parent with MDD, as well as the extent to which other factors, such as a history of comorbid diagnoses (e.g., ADHD), a history of MDD, and a current depressive episode, might confound to these differences. Offspring of patients with MDD (n=184) and a healthy normative sample (n=88) were compared on measures assessing attention, working memory, impulse control, and visual memory. The two groups were compared using ANCOVA, including an estimate of intellectual ability as a covariate, examining the effect of offspring status on neuropsychological performance. Offspring had significantly lower working memory and visual memory performance than did the normative sample, even after adjustment for IQ differences. Offspring with current depression, a history of comorbid ADHD or comorbid PTSD had significantly lower attention and working memory performance than did other unaffected offspring. Offspring with past depressive episodes and those who had never been depressed did not differ in current neuropsychological performance. When offspring with ADHD, PTSD, or current depression were removed from the analysis, however, and scores were adjusted for IQ differences, offspring of a parent with MDD continued to differ from individuals in the normative sample in working memory, at all levels of estimated intelligence. Offspring of patients with MDD exhibited working memory weaknesses at all levels of basic estimated intellectual ability. Modest working memory deficiencies may be a risk factor for, or potential genetic marker of, susceptibility to MDD.