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Change in Cognitive Function over the Course of Major Depressive Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

Neuropsychology Review 2024 Februrary 6
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with significant cognitive deficits during the acute and remitted stages. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the course of cognitive function whilst considering demographic, treatment, or clinical features of MDD that could moderate the extent of cognitive change. Databases were searched to identify studies that reported on cognitive function in MDD with a ≥12-week test-retest interval. Relevant studies were pooled using random effects modelling to generate an inverse-variance, weighted, mean effect size estimate (Hedges' g) of cognitive change for each cognitive variable and for an overall composite cognitive domain. Of 6898 records, 99 eligible studies were identified from which 69 were meta-analysed, consisting of 4639 MDD patients (agemean = 40.25 years, female% = 64.62%) across 44 cognitive variables. In over 95% of cognitive variables, improvements were either of non-significant, negligible, or of a small magnitude, and when compared to matched healthy controls, the possibility of practice effects could not be precluded. Depressive symptom improvement and the number of previous depressive episodes moderated the extent of cognitive change, demonstrating state- and scar-like features for one-quarter of the cognitive domains. Further longitudinal studies are required to elucidate the MDD cognitive trajectory from initial onset. Findings nonetheless suggest that following pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment, cognitive change in MDD is typically small, but the capacity for change may be less with episode recurrence. Targeting cognition early in the course of illness may facilitate better prognosis and support a more complete functional recovery.

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