Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Executive function, mentalizing and humor in major depression

J.  UEKERMANN  a1 c1 , S.  CHANNON  a2 , C.  LEHMKÄMPER  a1 , M.  ABDEL-HAMID  a1 , W.  VOLLMOELLER  a3 and I.  DAUM  a1
a1 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany
a2 Department of Psychology, University College London, United Kingdom
a3 Westfälisches Zentrum für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Ruhr-University of Bochum, Germany

Article author query
uekermann j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
channon s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lehmkamper c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
abdel-hamid m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
vollmoeller w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
daum i   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Major depression is associated with cognitive deficits including memory, executive functions, and affect perception, which have been linked to dysfunction of fronto-subcortical networks. However, little is known about social cognition on more complex socially relevant tasks, such as humor processing. In this investigation a computerized humor-processing task was administered to 27 patients with a diagnosis of major depression (Dep) and 27 healthy controls (HC). Theory of mind (mentalizing) and executive functions were also assessed. Both groups were similar in IQ, age, and gender. Depressed patients performed below the control group with respect to both affective and cognitive aspects of humor processing, and these were related to mentalizing and executive performance. Our findings suggest social cognition deficits in major depression. Ability to process humor and appreciate mentalistic perspectives may in turn influence social interactions and should be given consideration in therapeutic approaches to depression. (JINS, 2008, 14, 55–62.)

(Received November 13 2006)
(Revised June 4 2007)
(Accepted June 6 2007)

Key Words: Depression; Theory of mind; Executive; Humor; Social cognition; Mentalizing.

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Jennifer Uekermann, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Neuropsychology, GAFO 05/607, Ruhr-University of Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany. E-mail: