Research explores neurocognitive profile, cognitive impairment in MDD

The study supports evidence for long-term impairment in memory and executive function.

A review of the literature provided new insights into the clinical neurocognitive profile in major depressive disorder (MDD) and its relationship to cognitive deficits.

Investigators from the University of Bergen in Bergen, Norway, searched PsycINFO, Embase, and Medline for articles published between 2010 and 2020 using the terms depressive/major depression, neurocognitive, cognitive dysfunction, predominant, residual, long-lasting, euthymic, residual, and delivery in combination. They identified 70 relevant studies, including cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, as well as meta-studies and reviews. In their analysis of these studies, they took advantage of the state (cognitive deficits are caused by the state of depressive symptoms); trait (a pre-existing neurocognitive vulnerability increases the risk of developing depression); and the scar hypotheses (the neurotoxic aspects of depression cause irreversible cognitive impairment).1

Reviewing and comparing studies, the investigators noted that the literature supports evidence that people with depression may experience: long-term memory impairment, particularly as they age; long-term impairment of executive function; attention deficits, both during depressive episodes and as a residual symptom; and processing speed impairments, which were reported to be the most pronounced impairments, as well as the most influenced by status, trait, and scar effects. The investigators also noted that attention deficits are likely to influence outcomes in the other categories; that the role of attention deficits in the development of episodes and relapses remains uncertain; and that neurocognitive profiles for memory and executive functioning are nonspecific and inconclusive.1

The researchers concluded that although the characterization of MDD by residual cognitive symptoms can be explained by scar, condition, and trait profiles, understanding the origin and role in the neurocognitive profile continues to be too much. simplified in the literature. They suggested that future research on the neurocognitive profile in depression shift the focus from the domain level to the aspect level of cognitive functioning; take a more nuanced diagnostic approach to depression labels (rather than considering them as a single group without differentiation related to factors such as age, onset, duration, etc.); and incorporate a focus on potential origins of the onset of depression for studies that include participating patients.1

“Defining the neurocognitive profiles of depression could have important implications when developing new treatments targeting residual cognitive symptoms to prevent relapses, new episodes, and increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders later in life,” they wrote. concluded the researchers.


1. Hammar Å, Ronold EH, Rekkedal GÅ. Cognitive impairment and neurocognitive profiles in major depression – a clinical perspective. Psychiatry before. 2022;13:764374.

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