Procognitive Effects of Antidepressants and Other Therapeutic Agents in Major Depressive Disorder: A Systematic Review




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Objective: To review the efficacy of antidepressants and other therapeutic agents for the treatment of cognitive impairment in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Data Sources: We conducted a database search of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Embase through Ovid on May 7, 2019. The year of publication was not restricted. The search terms “Major Depressive Disorder,” “depress*,” “cognit*,” and “therapeutics” were used.

Study Selection: The studies included in this review were clinical trials of antidepressants and other therapeutic agents in MDD populations. Participants were aged between 18 and 65 years and had a DSM-III, -IV, or -5 diagnosis of MDD. In total, 2,045 research papers were screened, 53 full-text articles were assessed, and 26 articles were eligible to be included in this systematic review.

Data Extraction: The data and quality of research papers were assessed and screened by 2 independent reviewers. Discrepancies were resolved through a third reviewer.

Results: Overall, studies demonstrated that tricyclic antidepressants do not have procognitive effects, while vortioxetine and bupropion have demonstrated procognitive effects in MDD populations relative to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Several non-antidepressant agents, such as modafinil, amphetamines, and erythropoietin, have also demonstrated significant positive effects on cognition in depression.

Conclusions: Present-day antidepressants and other agents have demonstrated procognitive effects in MDD, but the findings between various agents are mixed. Further research looking at objective measures of cognitive performance would be helpful to obtain more definitive results regarding the efficacy of therapeutics for cognitive impairment in MDD.

J Clin Psychiatry 2020;81(4):19r13200