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As uncertainty remains about whether clinical response influences cognitive function after electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression, we examined the effect of remission status on cognitive function in depressed patients 4 months after a course of ECT.
A secondary analysis was undertaken on participants completing a randomised controlled trial of ketamine augmentation of ECT for depression who were categorised by remission status (MADRS ⩽10 v. >10) 4 months after ECT. Cognition was assessed with self-rated memory and neuropsychological tests of anterograde verbal and visual memory, autobiographical memory, verbal fluency and working memory. Patients were assessed through the study, healthy controls on a single occasion, and compared using analysis of variance.
At 4-month follow-up, remitted patients (N = 18) had a mean MADRS depression score of 3.8 (95% CI 2.2–5.4) compared with 27.2 (23.0–31.5) in non-remitted patients (N = 19), with no significant baseline differences between the two groups. Patients were impaired on all cognitive measures at baseline. There was no deterioration, with some measures improving, 4-months after ECT, at which time remitted patients had significantly improved self-rated memory, anterograde verbal memory and category verbal fluency compared with those remaining depressed. Self-rated memory correlated with category fluency and autobiographical memory at follow-up.
We found no evidence of persistent impairment of cognition after ECT. Achieving remission improved subjective memory and verbal memory recall, but other aspects of cognitive function were not influenced by remission status. Self-rated memory may be useful to monitor the effects of ECT on longer-term memory.
Negative biases in emotional processing are well recognised in people who are currently depressed but are less well described in those with a history of depression, where such biases may contribute to vulnerability to relapse.
To compare accuracy, discrimination and bias in face emotion recognition in those with current and remitted depression.
The sample comprised a control group (n = 101), a currently depressed group (n = 30) and a remitted depression group (n = 99). Participants provided valid data after receiving a computerised face emotion recognition task following standardised assessment of diagnosis and mood symptoms.
In the control group women were more accurate in recognising emotions than men owing to greater discrimination. Among participants with depression, those in remission correctly identified more emotions than controls owing to increased response bias, whereas those currently depressed recognised fewer emotions owing to decreased discrimination. These effects were most marked for anger, fear and sadness but there was no significant emotion × group interaction, and a similar pattern tended to be seen for happiness although not for surprise or disgust. These differences were confined to participants who were antidepressant-free, with those taking antidepressants having similar results to the control group.
Abnormalities in face emotion recognition differ between people with current depression and those in remission. Reduced discrimination in depressed participants may reflect withdrawal from the emotions of others, whereas the increased bias in those with a history of depression could contribute to vulnerability to relapse. The normal face emotion recognition seen in those taking medication may relate to the known effects of antidepressants on emotional processing and could contribute to their ability to protect against depressive relapse.
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