Successful computer-assisted cognitive remediation therapy in patients with unipolar depression: a proof of principle study

Psychol Med. 2007 Sep;37(9):1229-38. doi: 10.1017/S0033291707001110. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


Background: Despite increasing awareness of the extent and severity of cognitive deficits in major depressive disorder (MDD), trials of cognitive remediation have not been conducted. We conducted a 10-week course of cognitive remediation in patients with long-term MDD to probe whether deficits in four targeted cognitive domains, (i) memory, (ii) attention, (iii) executive functioning and (iv) psychomotor speed, could be improved by this intervention.

Method: We administered a computerized cognitive retraining package (PSSCogReHab) with demonstrated efficacy to 12 stable patients with recurrent MDD. Twelve matched patients with MDD and a group of healthy control participants were included for comparison; neither comparator group received the intervention that involved stimulation of cognitive functions through targeted, repetitive exercises in each domain.

Results: Patients who received cognitive training improved on a range of neuropsychological tests targeting attention, verbal learning and memory, psychomotor speed and executive function. This improvement exceeded that observed over the same time period in a group of matched comparisons. There was no change in depressive symptom scores over the course of the trial, thus improvement in cognitive performance occurred independent of other illness variables.

Conclusions: These results provide preliminary evidence that improvement of cognitive functions through targeted, repetitive exercises is a viable method of cognitive remediation in patients with recurrent MDD.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Memory Disorders / therapy
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Problem Solving
  • Reaction Time
  • Remedial Teaching / methods*
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome