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Memory impairment is a common adverse effect of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Studies on animals and humans suggest that vasopressin improves the cognitive function, and positive effects of desmopressin on memory and learning have been reported. This research was performed for evaluation of the effects of desmopressin in the prevention of memory impairment following ECT.
This randomized, double-blind controlled clinical trial with placebo administration was performed on 50 patients with psychiatric disorders who were candidates for ECT. Subjects in the case group received 60 µm of intranasal desmopressin daily (in three doses of 20 µm). For the control group 0.9% saline solution was administered in the same way. Memory function was evaluated using Wechsler's Memory Scale three times a week (the first time before the start of ECT and the second and third times after the third and sixth sessions, respectively). Results were analyzed by t-test and Paired t-test.
The mean age of patients was 29 years (range 20–40). During the course of ECT, patients in the control group demonstrated a meaningful decrease in memory scores (from a base score of 80.15–75.45 in the second test and 72.60 in the third test). Despite this, a meaningful increase in memory scores was observed during the treatment with desmopressin in the case group (from a base score of 73.27–75.70 and 79.13 in the second and the third tests, respectively). There was a meaningful difference between the two groups (P < 0.0001).
This study confirms the protective effect of desmopressin against memory impairment. The results confirm that memory impairment is a common side-effect of ECT and suggest that desmopressin may prevent ECT-induced memory impairment by its effects on memory and the learning process.
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