Study Finds Use of Antidepressants with ECT Reduces Memory Loss

Severe depression is an issue that affects millions of people, whether they have the disease or love someone who is suffering from it. As a result, scientists continue to dedicate time to studying the impact that depression has on its victims and how best to treat it. According to a recent Science Daily report the combination of antidepressant drugs and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) produces better results in trying to reduce symptoms of severe depression than using ECT alone. At the same time, this method also causes less memory loss. This research was conducted by scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and could help to alleviate one of the primary concerns regarding ECT. This method alone uses an electrical stimulus to the brain to induce seizures. It is often prescribed for patients with crisis-level severe depression. Those patients severe enough to require ECT often experience some memory loss, although it generally improves within days of treatment. Researchers set out to eliminate this negative side effect of ECT use. “Although ECT remains a powerful treatment, there is still a significant proportion of patients that do not respond – recent statistics show a 70 to 80 percent response rate,” said W. Vaughn McCall, M.D., M.S. McCall is a professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and the principal investigator for the study’s Wake Forest Baptist site. “Even in patients who do respond, there still is a significant risk of relapse. Patients may become ill again with depression within a matter of weeks to a few months after ECT.” While more research is necessary in this area, these findings offer hope that there is a possibility of maximizing the benefits of ECT treatments, without the memory loss side effect.

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