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A comparison of neurocognitive impairment in younger and older adults with major depression

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alan ThomasORCiD, Dr Peter GallagherORCiD, Dr Lucy Robinson, Dr Richard Porter, Professor Allan Young, Emeritus Professor Nicol Ferrier, Professor John O'Brien


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Background. Neurocognitive impairment is a well-recognized feature of depression that has been reported in younger and older adults. Similar deficits occur with ageing and it is unclear whether the greater deficits in late-life depression are in ageing-related phenomenon or due to a difference in the nature of late-life depression itself. We hypothesized that ageing alone would not fully explain the increased neurocognitive impairment in late-life depression but that differences in the illness explain the greater decrements in memory and executive function. Method. Comparison of the neuropsychological performance of younger (= 60 years) adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) and healthy comparison subjects. Scores for each depression group were normalized against their respective age-matched control group and the primary comparisons were oil four neurocognitive domains: (i) attention and executive function; (ii) verbal learning and memory; (iii) visuospatial learning and memory; and (iv) motor speed. Results. We recruited 75 subjects with MDD [= 60 years (n=31)] and 82 psychiatrically healthy comparison subjects [= 60 years (n=40)]. The late-life depression group had greater impairment in verbal learning and memory and motor speed but not of in executive function. The two depressed groups did not differ in depression severity, global cognitive function, intelligence or education. Conclusions. Late-life depression is associated with more severe impairment in verbal learning and memory and motor speed than depression in earlier adult life and this is not due to ageing alone.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thomas AJ, Gallagher P, Robinson LJ, Porter RJ, Young AH, Ferrier IN, O'Brien JT

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Psychological Medicine

Year: 2009

Volume: 39

Issue: 5

Pages: 725-733

ISSN (print): 0033-2917

ISSN (electronic): 1469-8978

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0033291708004042


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