Distinct memory impairments following electroconvulsive therapy and imipramine

Avraham Calev, Edna Ben-Tzvi, Baruch Shapira, Heinz Drexler, Refael Carasso, Bernard Lerer

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SYNOPSIS Memory functioning was assessed in 26 unmedicated patients with major depressive disorder (DSM-III) who were then administered either bilateral electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) (N = 16) or imipramine 200 mg per day (TV = 10). The subjects were retested following seven ECT administrations or 21 days of imipramine treatment respectively. The retrograde memory tasks included recall of public and autobiographic events. The anterograde memory tasks included an immediate memory task, a verbal paired-associates recall task, and a non-verbal figure reproduction task. Depression was significantly improved in the ECT-treated subjects but not in those administered imipramine. Both ECT- and imipramine-treated patients showed a deficit in recent anterograde memory relative to their pretreatment performance, but no deficit in immediate memory. ECT-treated patients also had a significant and well-characterized impairment in retrograde remote memory. By contrast, imipramine-treated patients did not show a retrograde memory impairment which could be explained by treatment. The results suggest qualitatively different memory deficits produced by ECT and imipramine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-119
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1989
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Tzvi's Master's thesis at Bar-Ilan University, and was partially supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, grant no. 40734, USA.


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