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