Nearly all individuals with depression frequently suffer from impairments to memory, attentiveness and concentration. Cognitive deficiencies in majority of such individuals, which can be objectively measured, are likely to be sustained during recovery. The persistence of cognitive deficits in individuals leads to adverse consequences such as sub-optimal work performance and higher chances of relapse. People may take time off from work to recover from depression; even when they are present in the workplace, they may be far less productive than usual. This may give rise to feelings of distress and helplessness. Even during recovery, individuals find it difficult to return to optimal productivity levels in the workplace leaving them vulnerable.
A new study by researchers from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and the University of Cambridge has found that modafinil, a drug typically used in the treatment of excessive daytime somnolence, may be effective in treating cognitive problems arising due to depression. Findings of the study, which appeared in the journal Biological Psychiatry: CNNI in March 2017, show that modafinil boosts episodic memory and working memory in individuals recovering from depression. The study was sponsored by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust.
The researchers enlisted 60 patients with remitted depression, aged between 18 and 65 years. Participants were given either a dose of modafinil or a placebo and made to complete tasks related to memory, attention and planning. It was found that patients who were administered modafinil displayed enhanced memory functions compared to those who had been given a placebo. The tendency to commit errors was also lower in patients receiving modafinil.
Depression-related cognitive deficiencies should be targeted during treatment
Given that cognitive deficiencies lead to adverse personal and professional outcomes, cognition is an important focus area in the treatment for depression. Currently available treatments have not much focused on addressing cognitive deficiencies in depression. Past research has already shown modafinil’s efficacy in enhancing cognitive function in the case of mental disorders, such as schizophrenia. The study provides evidence that the drug may potentially have the same effect in patients with depression.
Lead author Muzaffer Kaser, from the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, states that the findings are very encouraging. According to him, patients with depression frequently approach their general medical practitioners or psychiatrists with complaints related to concentration or impairment to memory. So far there has been limited progress in addressing such symptoms. The study highlights the feasibility of modafinil in treating sustained cognitive deficiencies in depression.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 300 million people globally. In 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults in the United States, representing 6.7 percent of the adult population, experienced at least one major episode of depressive disorders in the past year.
More research is needed to evaluate long-term effects of modafinil
The study does not show the long-term effects of modafinil. More research is needed to ascertain if modafinil will enable individuals to successfully resume their professional and personal duties after remission from depression. Additional research will also prove if the drug is effective in improving deficiencies in episodic memory and working memory, both of which are vital for carrying out daily activities.
Depression can be treated if symptoms are recognized and help is sought in a timely manner. If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, the Depression Treatment Helpline can suggest an evidence-based treatment plan for depression. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our representatives to learn about the best depression rehab centers in your vicinity.