The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings

Harold Sackeims’ review in Neuropsychopharmacology, 32, 244-254 (2007) remains one of the best updates indicating that the cognitive effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) are not always benign. They followed 347 patients from seven facilities in New York city and tested them after their last session of ECT and then again 6 months later. They reported that “Electrical waveform and electrode placement had marked cognitive effects. Sine wave stimulation resulted in pronounced slowing of reaction time, both immediately and 6 months following ECT. Bilateral (BL) ECT resulted in more severe and persisting retrograde amnesia than right unilateral ECT. Advancing age, lower premorbid intellectual function, and female gender were associated with greater cognitive deficits. Thus, adverse cognitive effects were detected 6 months following the acute treatment course. Cognitive outcomes varied across treatment facilities and differences in ECT technique largely accounted for these differences. Sine wave stimulation and BL electrode placement resulted in more severe and persistent deficits.”

Editors note: This is why it is important to recommend right unilateral ultra brief pulse (RUUBP) ECT both for acute and continuation treatment if necessary. Continuing RUUBP ECT rather than converting to bilateral ECT would appear to be preferable.

Obesity is associated with reduce cortical thickness in bipolar disorders

Sean R. McWhinney et al reported in Psychological Medicine (2023) that obesity was associated with reduced cortical thickness (but not surface area) in most areas of the brain in 2832 participants.

Editors Note: Patients and clinicians should try to prevent and reduce weight gain using the best tolerated medications from the outset and helping with weight loss by various measures. These can include the anticonvulsants topiramated and zonisamine, the combination of bupropion and naltrexone, and the use of new anti-diabetic drugs such as Jardiance and Farxiga that have weight loss (greater than with metformin) as a side effect. Prescribing a good diet and regular exercise is also indicated. Reducing obesity will likely make you live longer and maybe could even make you smarter.

Single-dose psilocybin-assisted therapy in major depressive disorder: a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial

von Rotz et al reported in eClinical Medicine (the Lancet) that a single dose of psilocybin produced a huge AD (anti-depressant) effect compared to placebo. A dose of 0.215mg Kg (about 15mg for a 70kg person) had a rapid onset AD effect that persisted for at least 14 days. Music was played and in a living room like environment. Psychological support was provided on 3 visits pretreatment and on days 8 and 14 for a total of 14 hours

Familial Aggregation of Major Depression Predicts Risk of Major Depression

Gronemann et al reported in JAMA Psychiatry: “In this cohort study of 2,903,430 individuals, maternal, paternal, full sibling, or half-sibling with MD were associated with 2-fold higher risks of MD in men and women….(E)xposure to family MD during childhood and adolescence was associated with increased risk. The risk increased with number of affected family members; (however) individuals exposed when 30 years or older had markedly lower risk.

Editors Note: Even depression in grandparents adds further to the risk of depression.  When there is high familial loading for depression and other psychiatric illnesses, one should be alert to the possible onset of depression in young individuals and treat them early and well accordingly.

Abuse Histories Decrease Rate of Remission to Antidepressant Treatment

February 23, 2023 · Posted in B - Clinically Important for Future Consideration · Comment 

Harkness et al reported in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (2023) “Greater severity of emotional maltreatment perpetrated by the mother was a significant and direct predictor of lower odds of week 16 remission (odds ratio [OR]=1.68, P =0.02). In contrast, the relations of paternal-perpetrated emotional maltreatment and physical maltreatment to week 16 remission were indirect, mediated through greater severity of anhedonia at week 8.”

Editors note: Response to ADs is less good in those with a history of abuse in childhood. Therefore psychotherapy should be added to medications in such situations to attempt to enhance responsiveness.

Hyperinsulinemia Associated Depression

Haider Sarwar writes in Clinical Medicine Insights (2022) that “Hyperinsulinemia promotes fat accumulation, causing obesity. Being an inflammatory state, obesity can induce further inflammation and is a risk factor for HPA (hypothalamic pituitary axis) dysregulation through hypercortisolism-related hyperglycemia….A disruption on SNS (sympathetic nervous system) activity increases insulin levels, and induces glycogenolysis in the liver and lipolysis in adipose tissue during hypoglycemia. Hyperglycemia-hyperinsulinemia exacerbates inflammation and increases the oxidative stress along with regulating the levels of norepinephrine in the brain sympathetic system. Increased inflammatory cytokines have also been shown to disrupt neurotransmitter metabolism and synaptic plasticity which play a role in the development of depression via inhibiting serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, and glutamate signaling. An increased level of plasma insulin over time in the absence of exercising causes …an increase in insulin resistance due to obesity and further culminates into depression….. Triple therapy with SSRI, bupropion, and cognitive behavioral therapy aids in improving glycemic control, lowering fasting blood glucose, decreasing the chances of relapse, as well as decreasing cortisol levels to improve cognition and the underlying depression.”

U.S. FDA Approves VRAYLAR® (cariprazine) as an Adjunctive Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder

“A Phase 3 Study 3111-301-001 showed a clinically and statistically significant change from baseline to week six in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) total score for patients treated with cariprazine at 1.5 mg/day + ADT compared with placebo + ADT. A second registration-enabling study, RGH-MD-75, showed a clinically and statistically significant change from baseline to week eight in the MADRS total score for patients treated with cariprazine at 2-4.5 mg/day (mean dose 2.6 mg) + ADT compared with placebo + ADT.

Cariprazine was generally well tolerated in 6- and 8-week studies. Mean weight change was < 2lbs and ? 3% of patients had a weight increase of ? 7%.

The starting dosage of VRAYLAR is 1.5 mg once daily. Depending upon clinical response and tolerability, the dosage can be increased to 3 mg once daily on Day 15. In clinical trials, dosage titration at intervals of less than 14 days resulted in a higher incidence of adverse reactions. The maximum recommended dosage is 3 mg once daily.

Most common adverse reactions observed in the adjunctive MDD studies (? 5% and at least twice the rate of placebo) were:

Akathisia, nausea, and insomnia at the recommended doses in 6-week, fixed-dose trials

Akathisia, restlessness, fatigue, constipation, nausea, increased appetite, dizziness, insomnia, and extrapyramidal symptoms in one 8-week flexible-dose trial at a titration of less than 14 days”

Potential Treatment for “Brain Fog” in Long COVID Patients: Guanfacine plus NAC

As announced in Yale on December 13, 2022 by Isabella Backman “A new Yale case study finds that two medications used for treating traumatic brain injuries, when taken together, can mitigate and sometimes eliminate the cognitive impairments known as “brain fog,” common among people with persistent COVID-19 symptoms….Individuals with long COVID, sometimes referred to as “long-haulers,” experience symptoms that may persist for weeks, months, or even years after their acute viral infection. While symptoms vary widely, a common complaint among patients is “brain fog”—a colloquial term for significant, persistent cognitive deficits, with consistent impairment of executive functioning and working memory. Long-haulers may experience a lack of mental clarity, poor focus and concentration, memory problems, difficulty with multi-tasking, and more. Brain fog can be debilitating, but there currently are no treatment options that are approved for the condition. 

Potential of Environmental Enrichment to Prevent Transgenerational Effects of Paternal Trauma

Gapp, K. et al. wrote about the “Potential of Environmental Enrichment to Prevent Transgenerational Effects of Paternal Trauma” in Neuropsychopharmacol 41, 2749–2758 (2016).

They “used a mouse model of unpredictable maternal separation combined with unpredictable maternal stress (MSUS) to examine the consequences of traumatic stress on coping behaviors in adulthood and across generations, and the potential contribution of (glucocorticoid receptors) GR. We show that MSUS affects avoidance behaviors and learning in aversive environments in exposed fathers and their male offspring. This is associated with an increase in GR expression in the hippocampus, and with decreased DNA methylation of GR promoter in the hippocampus and in germ cells. We show that transmission of the effects of paternal trauma can be prevented by paternal (environmental enrichment) EE, suggesting a reversibility of these effects.”

Editors Note: Dad’s early environmental adversity alter his response to traumatic stress as an adult, and this can be passed to the next generation via epigenetic changes in DNA methylation, histone and microRNA chemical changes persisting in sperm.  If the dad with early life adversity is housed in an enriched environment, he does not have the altered response to stress or the changes in GR, and his offspring do not have the transgenerational alterations in stress responsively.  This could probably happen in people if we could only figure out to super good environmental enrichment in those having early life adversity.  Having lots of stress as a neonate and then being adopted out to wonderful foster family could be the basis for a naturalistic study of this sort of result.