Experience sampling and ecological momentary assessment studies in psychopharmacology: A systematic review

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Nov;25(11):1853-64. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.08.008. Epub 2015 Aug 21.


Experience sampling methods (ESM) and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) offer insight into daily life experiences, including symptoms of mental disorders. The application of ESM/EMA in psychopharmacology can be a valuable addition to more traditional measures such as retrospective self-report questionnaires because they may help reveal the impact of psychotropic medication on patients' actual experiences. In this paper we systematically review the existing literature on the use of ESM/EMA in psychopharmacology research. To this end, we searched the PsycInfo and Medline databases for all available ESM/EMA studies on the use of psychotropic medication in patients with DSM-III-R and DSM-IV disorders. Dissertations were excluded. We included 18 studies that applied ESM/EMA to study the effects of medication on patients with major depressive disorder, substance use disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, psychotic disorder, and anxiety disorder. We found that ESM/EMA may allow researchers and clinicians to track patients during different phases of treatment: before treatment to predict outcome, during treatment to examine the effects of treatment on symptoms and different aspects of daily life experience, and after treatment to detect vulnerability for relapse. Moreover, ESM/EMA can potentially help determine how long and in what contexts medications are effective. Thus, ESM/EMA may benefit both researchers and clinicians and might prove to be an effective tool for improving the treatment of psychiatric patients.

Keywords: Affect; Ecological momentary assessment; Experience sampling; Personalized medicine; Processes of change; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Precision Medicine / methods
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Psychopharmacology / methods*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*


  • Psychotropic Drugs