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J Affect Disord. 2010 Apr;122(1-2):144-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.07.010. Epub 2009 Aug 18.

Persistent non-verbal memory impairment in remitted major depression - caused by encoding deficits?

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Muenster, Albert-Schweitzer-Str. 11, 48149 Muenster, Germany.



While neuropsychological impairments are well described in acute phases of major depressive disorders (MDD), little is known about the neuropsychological profile in remission. There is evidence for episodic memory impairments in both acute depressed and remitted patients with MDD. Learning and memory depend on individuals' ability to organize information during learning. This study investigates non-verbal memory functions in remitted MDD and whether nonverbal memory performance is mediated by organizational strategies whilst learning.


30 well-characterized fully remitted individuals with unipolar MDD and 30 healthy controls matching in age, sex and education were investigated. Non-verbal learning and memory were measured by the Rey-Osterrieth-Complex-Figure-Test (RCFT). The RCFT provides measures of planning, organizational skills, perceptual and non-verbal memory functions. For assessing the mediating effects of organizational strategies, we used the Savage Organizational Score.


Compared to healthy controls, participants with remitted MDD showed more deficits in their non-verbal memory function. Moreover, participants with remitted MDD demonstrated difficulties in organizing non-verbal information appropriately during learning. In contrast, no impairments regarding visual-spatial functions in remitted MDD were observed.


Except for one patient, all the others were taking psychopharmacological medication. The neuropsychological function was solely investigated in the remitted phase of MDD.


Individuals with MDD in remission showed persistent non-verbal memory impairments, modulated by a deficient use of organizational strategies during encoding. Therefore, our results strongly argue for additional therapeutic interventions in order to improve these remaining deficits in cognitive function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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