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Neuropsychological changes and treatment response in severe depression

  • Katie M. Douglas (a1), Richard J. Porter (a1), Robert G. Knight (a2) and Paul Maruff (a3)

Abstract

Background

Impaired neuropsychological function and differences in facial emotion processing are features of major depression. Some aspects of these functions may change during treatment and may be useful in assessing treatment response, even at an early stage of treatment.

Aims

To examine early and later changes in neuropsychological functioning and facial emotion processing as potential markers of treatment response in major depression.

Method

In total, 68 newly admitted in-patients with a primary diagnosis of major depression and 50 healthy controls completed an assessment, including mood ratings, neuropsychological measures and facial emotion processing measures at three time points (baseline, 10–14 days and 6 weeks).

Results

Pervasive neuropsychological impairment was evident at baseline in patients with depression compared with healthy controls. During 6 weeks of treatment, only simple reaction time, verbal working memory and the recognition of angry facial expressions showed differential change in those whose depression responded to treatment compared with treatment non-responders in the depression group. None of the measures showed a significant difference between treatment responders and non-responders at 10–14 days.

Conclusions

Despite significant impairment in neuropsychological functioning in the depression group, most measures failed to differentiate between treatment responders and non-responders at 10–14 days or at 6 weeks. Simple reaction time, verbal working memory and recognition of angry facial expressions may be useful in assessing response in severe depression but probably not at an early stage.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Richard Porter, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago – Christchurch, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand. Email: richard.porter@otago.ac.nz

Footnotes

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This study was supported by a Bright Future Doctoral Scholarship from the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission.

Declaration of interest

P.M. is a salaried employee of CogState Ltd. The company provided the Groton Maze Learning Test and Timed Chase Test used in this study.

Footnotes

References

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Neuropsychological changes and treatment response in severe depression

  • Katie M. Douglas (a1), Richard J. Porter (a1), Robert G. Knight (a2) and Paul Maruff (a3)
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