Neurocognition in Post-Treatment Lyme Disease and Major Depressive Disorder

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2019 Jun 1;34(4):466-480. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acy083.


Objective: Neurocognitive dysfunction in patients with residual or emergent symptoms after treatment for Lyme Disease is often attributed to comorbid depression. In this study, patients with Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) were compared to patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), as well as healthy comparison subjects (HC), on neurocognitive measures administered through the same laboratory, to determine if patterns of performance were similar.

Methods: Two analyses were conducted. First, performance on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-III) and on subtests from the Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS-III) was compared among the groups. Second, comparable subgroups of PTLDS and MDD patients with at least one low WMS-III score were compared on an additional set of measures assessing motor function, psychomotor performance, attention, memory, working memory, and language fluency, to determine if the overall profile of performance was similar in the two subgroups.

Results: In the first analysis, PTLDS patients performed more poorly than both MDD and HC on tasks assessing verbal abilities, working memory, and paragraph learning. Processing speed in the two patient groups, however, was equally reduced. In the second analysis, MDD patients with low WMS-III exhibited concomitantly greater difficulties in psychomotor speed and attention, while low-WMS-III PTLDS patients exhibited greater difficulties in language fluency.

Conclusions: MDD and PTLDS can be confused neuropsychologically because both exhibit similar levels of psychomotor slowing. However, problems on memory-related tasks, though mild, are more pronounced in PTLDS. PTLDS patients with poorer memory also exhibit poorer language fluency, and less deficit in processing speed and attention compared to MDD.

Keywords: Depression; Infectious disease; Intellectual functioning; Lyme disease; Memory; Neuropsychology; Processing speed; Verbal Fluency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / complications*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / complications*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome / complications*
  • Post-Lyme Disease Syndrome / psychology*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Wechsler Scales
  • Young Adult