Department of Psychiatry, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain, Belgium.
Reports on the severity and reversibility of cognitive disturbances in major depression in the literature diverge due to methodological biases. The present study, using a precise methodology, examined attention and executive functions in 20 relatively young, depressed patients presenting a first or second episode of unipolar major depression without psychotic or melancholic characteristics and all being treated with the same psychopharmacological treatment (sertraline) to investigate the changes in potential attentional and executive loss during a subacute period of treatment of 7 weeks. We compared their performance with a group of 26 control subjects who were administered the same cognitive tests. This study confirmed psychomotor slowing associated with attentional and executive disturbance in adults with major depression. Conscious attentional interference for words with a negative emotional valence also was shown. After the first weeks of treatment, the effect of the antidepressant treatment with sertraline was accompanied by a beneficial effect on psychomotor slowing on attentional and executive functions.