A Systematic Review of Neurocognitive Effects of Subanesthetic Doses of Intravenous Ketamine in Major Depressive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Healthy Population

This paper (2022) reviews the neurocognitive effects of subanesthetic doses of intravenous ketamine in pharmacological studies among healthy subjects and patients with PTSD or depression. No significant impairment in cognitive function was found in patients with depression and possible in those with PTSD. In contrast, immediate cognitive dysfunction was found in healthy subjects.

Abstract

Background and Objective: Ketamine, a noncompetitive, high-affinity antagonist of the N-methyl-D-aspartate type glutamate receptor, has been investigated for its high efficacy and rapid antidepressant effect and, more recently, for its potential utility in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The proposal that ketamine’s antidepressant and anti-suicidal mechanism may be in part due to its procognitive effect contrasts with the well-established decreased performance on spatial working memory and pattern recognition memory among long-term frequent users. We aimed to review the neurocognitive effects of subanesthetic doses of intravenous ketamine in pharmacological studies among healthy subjects and patients with PTSD or depression.

Methods: We included studies in English, among healthy adults, or with PTSD or unipolar or bipolar depression where the primary or secondary cognitive outcomes were measured by means of a validated neuropsychological test. We excluded studies that reported the use of ketamine only in combination with other drugs or psychotherapy, or studies investigating emotion-laden cognitive functions.

Results: Ketamine administration among patients with depression and possibly with PTSD does not show significant impairment of cognitive functions in the short-term, in contrast with the immediate altered cognitive dysfunction found in healthy subjects. The potential procognitive effects of ketamine seem more pronounced in cognitive domains of executive function, which is in line with the putative molecular, cellular, and synaptic mechanisms of ketamine’s therapeutic action.

Conclusions: The potential procognitive effect of ketamine deserves further exploration. Whether ketamine has transient or sustained neurocognitive benefits beyond its antidepressant effects is unknown. Improved cognition by ketamine might be used to facilitate psychotherapy interventions for PTSD and depression.

Authors: Paulo R. Shiroma, Mario R. Velit-Salazar & Yelena Vorobyov

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Study details

Compounds studied
Ketamine

Topics studied
Depression PTSD

Study characteristics
Literature Review

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