There is a lack of knowledge of possible cognitive side effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) beyond the first few months after treatment. We aim to describe cognitive effects and symptom remission 2 years after ECT in major depressive disorders.
Twenty-seven depression patients were assessed with the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) and the Everyday Memory Questionnaire (EMQ) before and 2 years after ECT. Their scores were compared with those of healthy matches. Depression and remission status were assessed with the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Main statistical analyses were ANOVAs and linear mixed model tests.
At baseline, the patient group was significantly impaired on 7 of 10 cognitive tests compared to the control group. Two years later, this gap was reduced to impairment on 5 of 10 tests. Within the patient group, neurocognitive function either increased significantly from baseline to follow-up, or there was no change. Two years after ECT, 62.9% of the patients were in remission. Those in remission reported better subjective memory function, but displayed no different neuropsychological test results, compared to the non-remitters.
Major limitations were low sample size and lack of uniform ECT procedure.
We found improved neurocognitive function 2 years after ECT. This effect occurred regardless of remission status, suggesting that ECT induces unique cognitive boosting processes.
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