Background: Post-stroke depression increases the likelihood of adverse physical symptoms. Attentional bias (AB) for negative stimuli is important in depression onset, maintenance, and remission. Stroke is more likely in older adults, who can have reduced cognitive function. Individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can have delayed reaction times (RTs). We hypothesized that RT to select neutral facial expression is affected by depressive symptoms and cognitive function in patients with stroke. Methods: This study analyzed 61 patients with stroke. Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II) and Profile of Mood States (short version) scores were determined. Task stimuli comprised eight pairs of facial expressions containing affective (angry) and neutral faces. AB was measured as the RT to select the neutral face in two simultaneously presented images using attention bias modification (ABM) software. Patients were grouped according to depressive symptoms using BDI-II scores. Between-subject factors of depressive symptoms and cognitive function were determined by ANCOVA. Results: No significant interaction was found between depressive symptoms and cognitive function on RT. There was a main effect of cognitive function, but not depressive symptoms. In patients with hemiparesis and depressive symptoms, RT was significantly shorter in patients without MCI compared with patients with MCI. Conclusions: People with stroke and elevated depression symptoms with hemiparesis but without MCI quickly selected neutral facial expressions from neutral and aversive expressions, and thus do not need ABM to escape aversive stimuli. ABM in response to aversive stimuli may be useful in evaluating negative emotions in individuals with post-stroke depression without MCI.
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