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Depress Anxiety. 2006;23(2):93-101.

Age-related cognitive effects of ECT and ECT-induced mood improvement in depressive patients.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


This explorative study investigated the interaction between electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment-effect, reduced depression, and neuropsychological outcome in relation to age. Follow-up neuropsychological assessment was conducted with depressive patients treated with ECT. From a potential sample of 45 patients, the neuropsychological measures (pre-ECT, three times post-ECT, up to 12 months) and clinical data from the remaining 21 patients who completed all assessments were evaluated (mean age=56.76; SD=14.12; range, 33-79). ECT resulted in a decrease in the depression scores. A distinct impact of ECT and depression decrease on cognitive domains was found. Depression alleviation was mainly associated with improvement in cognitive domains such as memory, information processing, and executive function. ECT improved cognitive domains such as information processing and perception. Short-term cognitive improvement was greater in older patients but showed an increase similar to that at long-term follow-up in younger patients (<60). Current findings provide evidence that ECT may improve cognitive functioning in nondemented elderly, which has strong clinical relevance concerning the use of ECT.

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