The cognitive model of depression assigns a central role to negatively biased information processing in the pathogenesis of the emotional disorder. The relationship between depression and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) was explored from a cognitive perspective. A word recognition memory task was constructed: subjects had to memorize and subsequently recognise a set of emotionally loaded stimulus words with either positive, neutral, or negative connotations. Four age matched groups participated--30 IBS patients, 28 depressed patients, 28 patients with organic gastrointestinal disease, and 30 healthy volunteers. The depressed patients, as would be expected, showed a significant bias in favour of emotionally negative words (p < 0.05): the IBS patients showed the same negative bias. In addition the IBS patients made significantly more false-positive type errors in recognising emotionally negative words than either the depressed patients (p < 0.05) or the healthy volunteers (p < 0.01). This suggests that the IBS patients have a peculiar confirmatory bias for negative material. This may have clinical relevance in terms of the IBS patients' evaluation of their own abdominal sensory experience.
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