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Review Article

Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Systematic Review

Sophie R. Vaccarino, MD, MSc, and Anthony L. Vaccarino, PhD

Published: June 5, 2024


Objective: To determine the objective cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS).

Data Sources: A database search of MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Embase was conducted on September 22, 2022, using the search terms “schizophrenia” and “electroconvulsive therapy.” The search was limited to the articles published from 1985 to present, in English, and human studies.

Study Selection: A total of 4293 articles were identified. After screening by title and full text, 17 articles met eligibility criteria. Controlled, open-label, and retrospective studies of acute, maintenance, or continuation ECT were included. An objective cognitive measure(s) had to be the primary or secondary outcome of the study, with no other interventions administered, besides standard-of-care treatment (ie, antipsychotics).

Data Extraction: Data regarding the study design, type of ECT provided, cognitive outcome measures, and change in cognitive performance pre- to post-ECT were extracted. Results are presented as a narrative review.

Results: Overall, ECT was not associated with any significant cognitive deficits in participants with TRS across the domains of global cognition, attention, language, visuospatial function, and executive function. Findings for immediate effects on memory were equivocal, but the majority of studies found no change or an improvement in memory after treatment.

Conclusions: The current evidence supports the conclusion that ECT does not have negative long-term effects on cognition among patients with TRS. Larger, sham-controlled trials are needed to support these conclusions. All studies in this review assessed ECT adjunct to antipsychotics; therefore, the cognitive effects of ECT independent of antipsychotics remain unclear.

J Clin Psychiatry 2024;85(2):23r15045

Author affiliations are listed at the end of this article.

Volume: 85

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