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Journal of ECT:
doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e318279c2c9
Review

Measuring Retrograde Autobiographical Amnesia Following Electroconvulsive Therapy: Historical Perspective and Current Issues.

Semkovska, Maria PhD; McLoughlin, Declan M. MD, PhD

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Abstract

Retrograde amnesia following electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a major concern for both patients and clinicians. In contemporary ECT research, retrograde autobiographical amnesia (RAA) is commonly measured with instruments assessing autobiographical memory (AM) consistency over time. However, normal AM recall loses in consistency with the passage of time, and time has a differential effect on stability of personal memories. In addition, experiencing depression is associated with a decreased ability to recall specific AMs, and this difficulty may persist in the euthymic phase of recurrent depression. Despite these scientific facts, relatively few attempts have been made to accurately measure the specific effect of ECT on AM independent of both normal and mood-associated forgetting over time. This major gap in our knowledge prevents us at present from objectively quantifying the nature and extent of RAA associated with ECT. In turn, this hinders our identifying and implementing strategies for prevention or remediation of AM deficits. The present article aims to provide an up-to-date review and historical perspective of this major methodological conundrum for ECT research, highlight current issues in retrograde amnesia assessment following ECT, and propose directions for future studies. In conclusion, we suggest methods to reliably and specifically measure the extent and progression over time of ECT-associated RAA independently from persistent depressive symptoms’ contribution and normal loss in AM consistency over time.

Copyright © 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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