SSRI Improves Cognition, Major Depression in Early Dementia


Vortioxetine significantly improves depressive symptoms, cognitive performance, functioning, and quality of life at 12 weeks in patients with both major depressive disorder (MDD) and early-stage dementia.


  • The multicenter MEMORY study included 82 subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and early-stage dementia, mean age 70.3 years, mostly female (66%) and White (95%).

  • Vortioxetine, a modulator of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptor activity and an inhibitor of the 5-HT transporter, initiated at 5 mg/day (recommended starting dose in older adults) with the dose up-titrated to 10 mg/day after a week and flexible dosing thereafter.

  • Depression was assessed using the Montgomery Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and cognition with the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT).


  • There was significant and clinically meaningful improvement in the severity of depressive symptoms, as measured by MADRS total score (the primary outcome), at all assessment timepoints (P < .0001).

  • Improvements in depressive symptoms were irrespective of dementia type

  • There were also significant improvements in DSST total score (P < .0001) and in daily functioning and health-related quality of life (HRQoL).

  • Vortioxetine was well tolerated; side effects, including nausea and abdominal pain, were mostly mild to moderate.


“Vortioxetine demonstrated effectiveness in clinically significantly improving depressive symptoms, cognitive performance, daily and global functioning, and HRQoL in patients with MDD and comorbid early-stage dementia treated for 12 weeks” the researchers note. 


The study was conducted by Michael Cronquist Christensen from pharmaceutical company H. Lundbeck A/S, Valby, Denmark, and colleagues. It was published online June 12 in the Journal of Affective Disorders.


The study is open-label and lacked a control group. Learning effects were possible, which could contribute to improved cognitive performance, although significant improvement on the RAVLT was not observed until week 4, suggesting earning effects were minimal.


The study was funded by H. Lundbeck A/S. Christensen is an employee of H. Lundbeck A/S. Author disclosures can be found in the original article.

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