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Neurosci Lett. 2012 Feb 29;510(2):127-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.01.018. Epub 2012 Jan 17.

Nitric oxide plasma concentration associated with cognitive impairment in patients with recurrent depressive disorder.

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Department of Adult Psychiatry, Medical University of Lodz, Lodz, Poland.



Depressive disorders are multifactorial diseases, in which cognitive impairment is one of the characteristic feature. One of the molecules that regulate of various cognitive, emotional and behavioural processes is nitric oxide (NO), synthesized from l-arginine by a family of isoformic enzymes known as nitric oxide synthases (NOS). NO is a gaseous compounds that acts as a biological second messenger in a number of organ system. In addition, NO is a ubiquitous free radical (NO) that affects many normal physiologic functions but is also implicated in the etiology and progression of many diseases. The aim of the study was to determine the concentration of NO in patients with recurrent depressive disorder (rDD) and to define relationship between plasma NO levels and the cognitive performance.


The study comprised 78 subjects: patients with rDD (n=45), healthy controls (CG, n=33). Cognitive function assessment was based on: TMT, The Stroop Test, VFT, AVLT.


Statistically significant differences were found among patients with rDD in the intensity of depression symptoms, measured by the HDRS on therapy onset vs. the examination results after 8 weeks of treatment (p<0.001). The level of NO was substantially higher in patients with rDD compared to CG. For all examined subjects (p<0.001), elevated levels of NO in blood plasma adversely affect the efficiency of visual-spatial and auditory-verbal working memory as well as short-term declarative memory. For rDD patients, elevated NO levels were associated with worse cognitive test performance. The higher was the concentration of plasma NO, the greater was the severity of depressive symptoms measured by HDRS (p=0.03).


(1) Higher concentration of plasma NO in rDD patients is associated with the severity of depressive symptoms. (2) Elevated levels of plasma NO are related to impairment of visual-spatial and auditory-verbal working memory as well as to impairment of short-term declarative memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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