A team of researchers from universities in Finland recently published a study indicating that people undergoing depressive episodes may also experience reduced visual contrast suppression.
In other words: maybe the world really does look gloomier when we’re feeling down.
The researchers enlisted 140 participants split between a 29 person control group and a 111 test group. The larger group was represented by individuals who experienced episodic unipolar depression or bipolar disorder.
Both groups took two tests. The first test checked how well they could process brightness by having them look at a patch of bright light on a computer screen as the background changed in luminosity.
And both groups performed about the same. Those experiencing bouts of depression perceived brightness about the same as those who weren’t.
Where the two groups diverged was in the second test. Called a “contrast suppression test,” it simply requires participants to “compare the perceived contrast of gratings, which were presented with collinearly or orthogonally oriented backgrounds.”
This test basically determines how good we are at seeing the edges of objects in space. And, according to the researchers, depressed people perform poorly compared to the control group.
Per the research:
Brightness induction was similar for patients with major depressive episodes and controls (p = 0.60, d = 0.115, Bayes factor = 3.9), but contrast suppression was significantly lower for patients than for controls (p < 0.006, d = 0.663, Bayes factor = 35.2).
What’s it mean?
Well, that’s the tough part. This isn’t a large-scale study. This more like a get-your-foot-in-the-door kind of study that you hope gets you the funding necessary to really start pulling these threads.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot more going on than just whether a person is experiencing depression that could influence their vision – and the way they answer specific questions related to the nuance of how we perceive light.
This work is significant in that, hopefully, it’ll lead to greater insights down the road.
You can check out the full study here.
H/t: Psychology Today
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