Effectiveness of Emotional Memory Reactivation vs Control Memory Reactivation Before Electroconvulsive Therapy in Adult Patients With Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Dominique S. Scheepens, Jeroen A. van Waarde, Freek ten Doesschate, Mirjam Westra, Marijn C. W. Kroes, Aart H. Schene, Claudi L. H. Bockting, Robert A. Schoevers, Damiaan A. J. P. Denys, Henricus G. Ruhé, Guido A. van Wingen

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Importance: Although electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is often effective, approximately half of patients with depression undergoing ECT do not benefit sufficiently, and relapse rates are high. ECT sessions have been shown to weaken reactivated memories. The effect of emotional memory retrieval on cognitive schemas remains unknown. Objective: To assess whether emotional memory retrieval just before patients receive ECT sessions weakens underlying cognitive schemas, improves ECT effectiveness, increases ECT response, and reduces relapse rates. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this multicenter randomized clinical trial conducted from 2014 to 2018 in the departments of psychiatry in 3 hospitals in the Netherlands, 72 participants were randomized 1:1 to 2 parallel groups to receive either emotional memory reactivation (EMR-ECT) or control memory reactivation (CMR-ECT) interventions before ECT sessions. The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS [total score range: 0-52, with 0-7 indicating no depression and ≥24 indicating severe depression]) was used to measure symptoms of depression during and after ECT, with a 6-month follow-up period. Participants were between ages 18 and 70 years with a primary diagnosis of unipolar major depressive disorder (MDD) according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision) and in whom ECT was indicated. Data analysis was performed from July to November 2019. Interventions: EMR-ECT or CMR-ECT interventions prior to ECT sessions. Main Outcomes and Measures: Depression scores and relapse rates within 6 months were assessed with the HDRS and analyzed using logistic and linear multiple regression analyses. Results: A total of 66 patients (mean [SD] age, 49.3 [12.3] years; 39 [59.1%] women) were randomized to the EMR-ECT group (n = 32) or the CMR-ECT group (n = 34). Regardless of the memory intervention, 42.4% (28 of 66) of patients responded (≥50% decrease of symptom severity on the HDRS). Of patients who responded, 39.3% (11 of 28) relapsed within 6 months. Remission rates (CMR-ECT group, 29.4% [10 of 34] vs EMR-ECT group, 25.0% [8 of 32]; P = .58), mean (SD) HDRS scores after the ECT course (CMR-ECT group, 14.6 [8.6] vs EMR-ECT group, 14.9 [8.8]; P = .88), total mean (SD) number of required ECT sessions for response (CMR-ECT group, 14.9 [7.9] vs EMR-ECT group, 15.6 [7.3]; P = .39), and relapse rates (CMR-ECT group, 46.7% [7 of 15] vs EMR-ECT group, 30.8% [4 of 13]; P = .33) were not significantly altered by the intervention. Conclusions and Relevance: Study findings suggest that the EMR-ECT intervention just before patient receipt of ECT for depression did not improve effectiveness, increase speed of response, or reduce relapse rates after the ECT course compared with patients receiving CMR-ECT. Trial Registration: Trialregister.nl Identifier: NL4289.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2012389
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2020

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