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J Psychiatr Res. 2013 Dec;47(12):1967-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.08.021. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

A new early cognitive screening measure to detect cognitive side-effects of electroconvulsive therapy?

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Black Dog Institute, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Electronic address:


Cognitive side-effects from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be distressing for patients and early detection may have an important role in guiding treatment decisions over the ECT course. This prospective study examined the utility of an early cognitive screening battery for predicting cognitive side-effects which develop later in the ECT course. The screening battery, together with the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE), was administered to 123 patients at baseline and after 3 ECT treatments. A more detailed cognitive battery was administered at baseline, after six treatments (post ECT 6) and after the last ECT treatment (post treatment) to assess cognitive side-effects across several domains: global cognition, anterograde memory, executive function, speed and concentration, and retrograde memory. Multivariate analyses examined the predictive utility of change on items from the screening battery for later cognitive changes at post ECT 6 and post treatment. Results showed that changes on a combination of items from the screening battery were predictive of later cognitive changes at post treatment, particularly for anterograde memory (p < 0.01), after controlling for patient and treatment factors. Change on the MMSE predicted cognitive changes at post ECT 6 but not at post treatment. A scoring method for the new screening battery was tested for discriminative ability in a sub-sample of patients. This study provides preliminary evidence that a simple and easy-to-administer measure may potentially be used to help guide clinical treatment decisions to optimise efficacy and cognitive outcomes. Further development of this measure and validation in a more representative ECT clinical population is required.


Cognition; Electroconvulsive therapy; Memory; Side-effects

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