13 September 2023: Ecological Momentary Assessment of Cognitive Control and Mood in Mental Health

Mor Nahum
School of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine
The Hebrew University

Cognitive control, the mental operations underlying our goal-directed behaviors, have been suggested as a potential key mechanism in mental health, contribution to mental resilience, emotion regulation and reduction of depressive symptoms. However, although cognitive control ability has been shown to fluctuate, it is often captured in a one-time lab-based measurement. Here, we use ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of inhibitory control, a component of cognitive control, and mood in real life to assess their contribution to mental health. In Study 1, conducted in a group of 156 young adults during their basic combat training in IDF, we show that for those with higher levels of resilience, inhibitory control is associated with their momentary mood, such that better inhibitory control predicts better mood. In Study 2, which included a group of 106 participant with pre-clinical depression, we show that a one-time measurement of inhibitory control does not predict depressive symptoms. Instead, variability of inhibitory control across the EMA sessions predicted depressive symptoms one week later. In addition, reduced levels of inhibition predicted worse mood for those with higher baseline depressive symptoms. Finally, in Study 3, which included a group of 132 young adults with and without ADHD, we show that emotion dysregulation at baseline is not associated with a one-time measurement of inhibitory control. Instead, those with higher levels of emotion dysregulation have reduced mean EMA of inhibitory control and increased inhibition variability. These results suggest that the stability of cognitive control over time may be more relevant for prediction of mental health related outcomes. We discuss these results in light of cognitive models related to mental health and their potential clinical implications.

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