Electroconvulsive therapy for depression and autobiographical memory

Hedvig Söderlund, Alexander Percy and Brian Levine

in Epilepsy and Memory

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199580286
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739408 | DOI:
Electroconvulsive therapy for depression and autobiographical memory

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Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is used to treat otherwise treatment-resistant depression. Despite clear mood-enhancing effects, it is associated with complaints of memory loss. This chapter outlines a brief history of ECT, its effects on the brain and on memory, and why subjective memory loss may surpass the objectively measured loss. It also presents results from an ongoing study assessing autobiographical memory following ECT using the Autobiographical Interview, which separates episodic from semantic autobiographical memory. Initial analyses suggest a disproportional impairment of episodic memory, although semantic memory to some extent is also affected. In spite of some recovery, this impairment persists three months after treatment. This research validates the subjective impairments reported by ECT patients, and supports theoretical constructs of memory that assume a behavioural and neural separation between episodic and semantic autobiographical memory.

Keywords: depression; treatment; memory loss; subjective memory; autobiographical memory; episodic memory; semantic memory

Chapter.  8180 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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