Depression and Cognitive Control across the Lifespan: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Vonetta M. Dotson, Shawn M. McClintock, Paul Verhaeghen, Joseph U. Kim, Amanda A. Draheim, Sarah M. Syzmkowicz, Andrew M. Gradone, Hannah R. Bogoian, Liselotte De Wit

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Depression has been shown to negatively impact neurocognitive functions, particularly those governed by fronto-subcortical networks, such as executive functions. Converging evidence suggests that depression-related executive dysfunction is greater at older ages, however, this has not been previously confirmed by meta-analysis. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis, using three-level models, on peer-reviewed studies that examined depression-related differences in cognitive control in healthy community-dwelling individuals of any age. We focused on studies of cognitive control as defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework, which centers on goal-directed behavior, such as goal selection (updating, representations, maintenance), response selection (inhibition or suppression), and performance monitoring. In 16,806 participants aged 7 to 97 across 76 studies, both clinical depression and subthreshold depressive symptoms were associated with cognitive control deficits (Hedges’ g = -0.31). This relationship was stronger in study samples with an older mean age. Within studies with a mean age of 39 years or higher, which represents the median age in our analyses, the relationship was stronger in clinical compared to subthreshold depression and in individuals taking antidepressant medication. These findings highlight the importance of clinicians screening for cognitive control dysfunction in patients with depression, particularly in later stages of adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-476
Number of pages16
JournalNeuropsychology Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Age differences
  • Cognition
  • Executive control
  • Executive function
  • Major depression
  • Older adults
  • Subthreshold depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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