The effects of vagus nerve stimulation on cognitive performance in patients with treatment-resistant depression

H. A. Sackeim, J. G. Keilp, A. J. Rush, M. S. George, L. B. Marangell, J. S. Dormer, T. Burt, S. H. Lisanby, M. Husain, C. M. Cullum, N. Oliver, H. Zboyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is effective in the management of treatment-resistant epilepsy. Open-trial evidence suggests that VNS has clinically significant antidepressant effects in some individuals who experience treatment-resistant major depressive episodes. However, limited information regarding the effects of VNS on neurocognitive performance exists. Objective: The primary aim of this study was to determine whether VNS leads to neurocognitive deterioration. Method: A neuropsychological battery was administered to 27 patients with treatment-resistant depression before and after 10 weeks of VNS. Thirteen neurocognitive tests sampled the domains of motor speed, psychomotor function, language, attention, memory, and executive function. Results: No evidence of deterioration in any neurocognitive measure was detected. Relative to baseline, improvement in motor speed (finger tapping), psychomotor function (digit-symbol test), language (verbal fluency), and executive functions (logical reasoning, working memory, response inhibition, or impulsiveness) was found. For some measures, improved neurocognitive performance correlated with the extent of reduction in depressive symptoms, but VNS output current was not related to changes in cognitive performance. Conclusions: Vagus nerve stimulation in treatment-resistant depression may result in enhanced neurocognitive function, primarily among patients who show clinical improvement. Controlled investigation is needed to rule out the contribution of practice effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalNeuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology and Behavioral Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 10 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of vagus nerve stimulation on cognitive performance in patients with treatment-resistant depression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this