Resting and task-elicited prefrontal EEG alpha asymmetry in depression: Support for the capability model

Jennifer L. Stewart, James A. Coan, David N. Towers, John J.B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Scopus citations


The capability model of frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) asymmetry suggests that brain activity during emotional challenge will be a more powerful indicator of predispositions toward psychopathology than activity observed at rest. EEG data were assessed during a resting baseline and a facial emotion task, wherein individuals with (n=143) and without (n=163) lifetime major depressive disorder (MDD) made approach (angry and happy) and withdrawal (afraid and sad) facial expressions. EEG asymmetry during emotional challenge was a more powerful indicator of MDD status than resting asymmetry for average, Cz, and linked mastoid references, results in support of the capability model. However, current-source-density (CSD) transformed asymmetry was indicative of lifetime MDD status under resting and task-elicited conditions. Findings suggest that CSD-transformed data may be more robust indicators of trait frontal EEG asymmetry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-455
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014



  • Alpha asymmetry
  • Capability model
  • Depression
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotion
  • Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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