Background. Objective data regarding adverse cognitive deficits associated with maintenance electroconvulsive therapy (M-ECT) are lacking. This study examined the cognitive state of depressive patients during M-ECT.
Method. A cross-sectional study was carried out in 11 depressive patients in remission, all with a DSM-IV diagnosis of major depressive disorder. The mean number of previous ECT sessions was 36·1, and the mean intersession interval was 52·7 days. A group of 11 patients who had not received ECT was selected for comparison and matched for diagnosis, sex, age and years of schooling. All subjects were assessed using a complete neuropsychological battery including memory, attention and frontal function tests.
Results. Groups did not present differences in long delay verbal recall. Encoding of new information and results on the frontal function tests were significantly lower in the M-ECT patients.
Conclusion. Depressed patients preserve long-term memory, but suffer short-term memory impairment and frontal function alteration during M-ECT. Further longitudinal studies are necessary to determine the influence of M-ECT on non-memory functions and different memory subtypes.