The Journal of ECT

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Journal of ECT:
doi: 10.1097/YCT.0000000000000117

Autobiographical Memory and Electroconvulsive Therapy: Do Not Throw Out the Baby

Sackeim, Harold A. PhD

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Abstract: Retrograde amnesia for autobiographical information is the most critical adverse effect of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Much, if not most, modern research demonstrating long-term autobiographical amnesia after ECT has used either the Columbia University Autobiographical Memory Interview (CUAMI) or the short form of this scale (CUAMI-SF). Semkovska and McLoughlin claimed that studies using these instruments should be dismissed and the findings ignored owing to a lack of normative data, as well as concerns about the reliability and validity of these instruments. In this commentary, the development and use of these scales is reviewed. It is shown that Semkovska and McLoughlin’s critique is factually incorrect, as normative data were simultaneously collected in virtually all studies using these instruments. Furthermore, there is substantial evidence supporting the reliability and validity of these scales. Indeed, these instruments are the only neuropsychological tests repeatedly shown to covary with patient self-evaluations of ECT’s effects on memory and have repeatedly demonstrated long-term differences in the magnitude of amnesia as a function of ECT technique. Findings with the CUAMI and CUAMI-SF provide key evidence regarding ECT’s adverse cognitive effect profile. It is inaccurate and inadvisable to continue to deny that ECT can exert long-term adverse effects in this domain.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


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