Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Neuropsychological deficits and CT scan changes in elderly depressives

Melanie A. Abasa1, Barbara J. Sahakiana1 and Raymond Levya1 c1

a1 Maudsley and Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatry, London


A number of computerized tests were used to study visual attention, memory and learning in elderly depressed patients. Impairment was found in approximately 70% of depressed patients and was seen particularly in memory and in measures of latency. Depressed patients showed equivalent impairment in short-term memory but less impairment in conditional associative learning compared to a group of patients with early dementia of the Alzheimer-type (DAT), matched for age and pre-morbid IQ. With respect to qualitative differences between depression and DAT, depressed patients showed a different pattern of errors and a consistently prolonged latency of response which was independent of delay in a delayed matching-to-sample test. On recovery from depression, although improvement was seen in most test scores, performance in measures of latency and in a number of tests of memory and learning failed to reach the level seen in a group of matched control subjects and approximately 35% of patients continued to show impairment. For the depressed patients, ventricular brain ratio (VBR) correlated with measures of slowing. In addition, in the ‘recovered-depressives’, VBR correlated with poor performance at high levels of task difficulty. These findings are discussed with respect to previous literature on the pattern of cognitive impairment and CT scan findings in depression.


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor R. Levy, Section of Old Age Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8AF.