Chairman Guy Goodwin introduced not only the speakers but also the audience to Pigeonhole live – the audience being enthusiastically encouraged to make use of their smart phones throughout this interactive meeting both to ask and answer questions via this medium. Traditional question cards were provided for the technologically-challenged!
Cognition needs to be treated differently from the other symptoms associated with MDD, Professor Raymond Lam, University of British Columbia, Canada, told the audience. Cognitive dysfunction in patients with MDD often persists into remission, and it is recognised that cognitive impairment drives functional impairment and, in particular, poor work functioning. This in turn means that patients who return to work are often working sub-optimally and this has associated costs – both financial costs for society but also costs in terms of the patient’s wellbeing. Work is important to patients, not just because of the money they earn – but as a source of accomplishment, intellectual stimulation, regular activity and social interaction.
As cognitive deficits affect a patient’s ability to functionally recover, new treatment options are needed to target cognitive dysfunction and better improve functional outcomes in patients with depression.
Which test is best in the assessment of cognitive dysfunction in MDD? This was the question posed by Dr John Harrison, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Metis Cognition Ltd.
An ideal test should be reliable, sensitive, valid, suitable for use in the long term, available in parallel forms and suitable for cross-cultural use. Dr Harrison cautioned the audience to do three things: choose the test to answer the question you want answered, remember that exploration informs confirmation and, most importantly, never be a slave to dogma. As he explained, tests to assess cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s disease are insufficient and prone to a number of problems, yet they failed for 20 years because researchers were slaves to dogma!
In an assessment of the FOCUS study, cognition was successfully evaluated using the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) – suggesting that this would be a good candidate test for the assessment of cognitive dysfunction in MDD.
Interestingly, a Pigeonhole survey conducted during the meeting suggested that 70% of attendees already investigated cognitive deficits in their patients with MDD on a regular basis. However, 30% of attendees did not assess cognition regularly in their patients with MDD. Maybe those that don’t currently assess cognition in depression will find the THINC Cognition Tool of interest.
Despite the increasing recognition of the importance of the assessment of cognition in MDD, as Professor Roger McIntyre, University of Toronto, Canada reported, no accepted and validated screening tool for the objective and subjective assessment of cognitive dysfunction in MDD suitable for use in daily clinical practice is currently available. Indeed, as he stated, what is needed is a tool to measure the extent of a deficit, not just aid in its identification.
This is the underlying rationale for the development of the THINC Cognition Tool - a tool specifically developed to detect and measure cognitive dysfunction in MDD. The THINC Cognition Tool incorporates several brief, easy to administer objective tests including the DSST, Choice Reaction Time (CRT), the Trail Making Test B (TMT-B), the One-Back Test (1BT) and the Pathfinder test as well as a subjective, patient reported assessment PDQ test. During the symposium a video demonstrating the objective tests was screened – showing the tests to be attractively designed and appealing to perform.
Currently, the THINC Cognition Tool is being validated for the screening of cognitive dysfunction in adults with depression at the University of Toronto, Canada. It (along with many other useful materials concerned with cognitive deficiency in MDD) will be available to download from the THINC website soon (THINCcognition.com). The tool will be free of charge and should be also be available in local languages.