No longer prescribed only for vegetative signs of depression, tricyclic antidepressants also lessen depressive cognitive distortions. Less clear is whether they ameliorate depressed patients' other cognitive deficits in memory, information processing speed, and psychomotor performance. We tested the alternative hypothesis that amitriptyline, because of its anticholinergic and sedative properties, would exacerbate depressed patients' cognitive disturbances. Depressed outpatients received double-blind placebo (n=15), amitriptyline (n=10), or clovoxamine fumarate (n=10), a serotonin reuptake inhibitor relatively lacking in anticholinergic properties. Depression, memory, and psychomotor performance were assessed at baseline and after 7 and 28 days of drug treatment. Depression was alleviated after all treatments, including placebo. Only amitriptyline impaired performance on tests of memory, producing a significant decrement, relative to placebo, after 4 weeks of treatment. None of the treatments adversely affected performance on psychomotor tasks. These findings add to the evidence that antidepressant drugs with high anticholinergic activity can impair memory, despite alleviation of depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas