Journal Mobile Options
Table of Contents
Vol. 41, No. 1, 2000
Issue release date: January 2000
Neuropsychobiology 2000;41:31–37

Is Resting Anterior EEG Alpha Asymmetry a Trait Marker for Depression?

Findings for Healthy Adults and Clinically Depressed Patients

Debener S. · Beauducel A. · Nessler D. · Brocke B. · Heilemann H. · Kayser J.
aDepartment of Psychology II, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, bMax Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Leipzig, cState Mental Hospital Arnsdorf, Germany, and dDepartment of Biopsychology, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, N.Y., USA

Individual Users: Register with Karger Login Information

Please create your User ID & Password

Contact Information

I have read the Karger Terms and Conditions and agree.

To view the fulltext, please log in

To view the pdf, please log in


Several lines of evidence suggest that asymmetric anterior brain activation is related to affective style, linking left hemisphere activation to positive affect and right hemisphere activation to negative affect. However, previous reports of left frontal hypoactivation in depressed patients were not confirmed in recent studies. This study evaluated additional characteristics of resting EEG alpha (8–13 Hz) asymmetry in 15 clinically depressed patients and 22 healthy adults by recording EEG activity on two separate occasions, 2–4 weeks apart. Across both sessions, group differences in anterior EEG asymmetry were compatible with the original hypothesis. However, groups differed in temporal stability of anterior EEG asymmetry, which was retest reliable in controls but not depressed patients. In contrast, temporal stability of posterior EEG asymmetry was acceptable in both groups. Increased variability of anterior EEG asymmetry may be a characteristic feature for depression, and, if so, this would challenge the notion that anterior EEG alpha asymmetry is a trait marker for depression.

Copyright © 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel

Copyright / Drug Dosage

Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or, in the case of photocopying, direct payment of a specified fee to the Copyright Clearance Center.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.


  1. Davidson RJ: Cerebral asymmetry, emotion, and affective style; in Davidson RJ, Hugdahl K (eds): Brain Asymmetry. Cambridge, MIT, 1995, pp 361–387.
  2. Davidson RJ: Affective style and affective disorders: Perspectives from affective neuroscience. Cogn Emotion 1998;12:307–330.

    External Resources

  3. Robinson RG, Downhill JE: Lateralization of psychopathology in response to focal brain injury; in Davidson RJ, Hugdahl K (eds): Brain Asymmetry. Cambridge, MIT, 1995, pp 693–711.
  4. Borod, JC: Interhemispheric and intrahemispheric control of emotion: A focus on unilateral brain damage. J Consult Clin Psychol 1992;60:339–348.
  5. Fowles DC: Psychophysiology and psychopathology: A motivational approach. Psychophysiology 1987;25:373–391.
  6. Henriques JB, Davidson RJ: Left frontal hypoactivation in depression. J Abnorm Psychol 1991; 100:22–31.
  7. Henriques JB, Davidson RJ: Regional brain electrical asymmetries discriminate between previously depressed and normal control subjects. J Abnorm Psychol 1990;99:22–31.
  8. Papousek I, Schulter G: Different temporal stability and partial independence of EEG asymmetries from different locations: Implications for laterality research. Int J Neurosci 1998;93:87–100.

    External Resources

  9. Tomarken AJ, Davidson RJ, Wheeler RE, Kinney L: Psychometric properties of resting anterior EEG asymmetry: Temporal stability and internal consistency. Psychophysiology 1992;29:576–592.
  10. Sutton SK, Davidson RJ: Prefrontal brain asymmetry: A biological substrate of the behavioral approach and inhibition systems. Psychol Sci 1997;8:204–210.
  11. Wheeler RE, Davidson RJ, Tomarken AJ: Frontal brain asymmetry and emotional reactivity: A biological substrate of affective style. Psychophysiology 1993;30:82–89.
  12. Harmon-Jones E, Allen JJB: Behavioral activation sensitivity and resting frontal EEG asymmetry: Covariation of putative indicators related to risk for mood disorders. J Abnorm Psychol 1997;106:159–163.
  13. Jacobs GD, Snyder D: Frontal brain asymmetry predicts affective style in men. Behav Neurosci 1996;110:3–6.
  14. Schagass C: Electrical activity in the brain; in Greenfield NS, Sternbach RA (eds): Handbook of Psychophysiology. Hillsdale, Erlbaum, 1972, pp 263–328.
  15. Cook IA, O’Hara R, Uijtdehaage SHJ, Mandelkern M, Leuchter AF: Assessing the accuracy of topographic EEG mapping for determining local brain function. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1998;107:408–414.
  16. Schaffer CE, Davidson RJ, Sarron C: Frontal and parietal electroencephalogram asymmetry in depressed and nondepressed subjects. Biol Psychiatry 1983;18:753–762.
  17. Bruder GE, Fong R, Tenke CE, Leite P, Towey JP, Stewart JE, McGrath PJ, Quitkin FM: Regional brain asymmetries in major depression with or without an anxiety disorder: A quantitative electroencephalographic study. Biol Psychiatry 1997;41:939–948.
  18. Kano K, Nakamura M, Matsuoka T, Iida H, Nakajima T: The topographical features of EEGs in patients with affective disorders. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1992;83:124–129.
  19. Roemer RA, Schagass C, Dubin W, Jaffe R, Siegal L: Quantitative EEG in elderly depressives. Brain Topogr 1992;4:285–290.
  20. Saletu B, Brandstätter N, Metka M, Stamenkovic M, Anderer P, Semlitsch HV, Heytmanek G, Huber J, Grünberger J, Linzmayer L, Kurz C, Decker K, Binder G, Knogler W, Koll B: Hormonal, syndromal and EEG mapping studies in menopausal syndrome patients with and without depression as compared with controls. Maturitas 1996;23:91–105.
  21. Bell IR, Schwartz GE, Hardin EE, Baldwin CM, Kline JP: Differential resting quantitative electroencephalographic alpha patterns in women with environmental chemical intolerance, depressives, and normals. Biol Psychiatry 1998;43:376–388.
  22. Pollock VE, Schneider LS: Quantitative, waking EEG research on depression. Biol Psychiatry 1990;27:757–780.
  23. Pollock VE, Schneider LS: Topographic quantitative EEG in elderly subjects with major depression. Psychophysiology 1990;27:438–444.
  24. Reid SA, Duke LM, Allen JJB: Resting frontal electroencephalographic asymmetry in depression: Inconsistencies suggest the need to identify mediating factors. Psychophysiology 1998;35:389–404.
  25. Hagemann D, Naumann E, Becker G, Maier S, Bartussek D: Frontal brain asymmetry and affective style: A conceptual replication. Psychophysiology 1998;35:372–388.
  26. Rosenfeld JP, Baehr E, Baehr R, Gotlib ICH, Ranganath C: Preliminary evidence that daily changes in frontal alpha asymmmetry correlate with changes in affect in therapy sessions. Int J Psychophysiol 1996;23:137–141.

    External Resources

  27. Allen JJ, Iacono WG, Depue RA, Arbisi P: Regional EEG asymmetries in bipolar seasonal affective disorder before and after phototherapy. Biol Psychiatry 1993;33:642–646.
  28. Pfister H, Wittchen H, Weigel A: Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Weinheim, Beltz Test, 1990.
  29. Ulrich G, Frick K, Lewinsky M: Lithium and the theoretical concept of ‘dynamic restriction’: A comparison of the effects on different levels of quantitative EEG analysis. Lithium 1993;4:33–44.
  30. Thau K, Rappelsberger P, Lovrek A, Petsche H, Simhandl C, Topitz A: Effect of lithium on the EEG of healthy males and females. Neuropsychobiology 1988;20:158–163.
  31. Davidson RJ, Kalin NH, Shelton SE: Lateralized effects of diazepam on frontal brain electrical asymmetries in rhesus monkeys. Biol Psychiatry 1992;32:438–451.
  32. Kwon JS, Youn T, Jung HY: Right hemisphere abnormalities in major depression: Quantitative electroencephalographic findings before and after treatment. J Affective Disord 1996;40:169–173.

    External Resources

  33. Shagass C, Roemer RA, Josiassen RC: Some quantitative EEG findings in unmedicated and medicated depressives. Neuropsychobiology 1988;19:169–175.
  34. Knott VJ, Howson AL, Perugini M, Ravindran AV, Young SN: The effect of acute tryptophan depletion and fenfluramine on quantitative EEG and mood in healthy male subjects. Biol Psychiatry, in press.
  35. Herrmann WM, Schärer E, Wendt G, Delini-Stula A: Pharmaco-EEG profile of levoprotiline. Pharmacopsychiatry 1991;24:206–213.
  36. Saletu B, Grünberger J, Anderer P, Linzmayer L, Zyhlarz G: Comparative pharmacodynamic studies with the novel serotonin uptake-enhancing tianeptine and -inhibiting fluvoxamine utilizing EEG mapping and psychometry. J Neural Transm 1996;103:191–216.

    External Resources

  37. Dilling H, Mombour W, Schmidt MH (eds): Internationale Klassifikation psychischer Störungen. ICD-10 Kapitel V (F). Bern, Huber, 1993.
  38. Oldfield RC: The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh inventory. Neuropsychologia 1971;9:97–112.
  39. Hautzinger M, Bailer M, Worall H, Keller F: Beck-Depressions-Inventar (BDI), ed 2, rev. Bern, Huber, 1995.
  40. Krohne HW, Egloff B, Kohlmann C, Tausch A: Untersuchungen mit einer deutschsprachigen Version der ‘Positive and Negative Affect Schedule’ (PANAS). Diagnostica 1996;42:139–156.
  41. Debener S, Nessler D, Friedrich C, Brocke B: Zum Einfluss der Händigkeit auf das Spontan-EEG: Alpha-Asymmetrie und interhemisphärische Kohärenz; in Schröger E, Mecklinger A, Widmann A (eds): Experimentelle Psychologie. 41. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen. Lengerich, Papst Science Publishers, 1999, p 114.
  42. Gasser T, Bächer P, Möcks J: Transformations toward the normal distribution of broad band spectral parameters of the EEG. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1982;53:119–124.
  43. Dixon WJ (ed): BMDP Statistical Software Manual: To Accompany the 7.0 Software Release. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992.
  44. Miller GA, Lutzenberger W, Elbert T: The linked-reference issue in EEG and ERP recording. J Psychophysiol 1991;5:273–276.
  45. Debener S, Beauducel A, Brocke B, Kayser J: Resting anterior EEG alpha asymmetry and affective style: Effects of electrode location and reference (abstract). J Psychophysiol, in press.
  46. Heller W, Nitschke JB, Etienne MA, Miller GA: Patterns of regional brain activity differentiate types of anxiety. J Abnorm Psychol 1997;106:376–385.

Pay-per-View Options
Direct payment This item at the regular price: USD 38.00
Payment from account With a Karger Pay-per-View account (down payment USD 150) you profit from a special rate for this and other single items.
This item at the discounted price: USD 26.50