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Unilateral brief-pulse electroconvulsive therapy and cognition: Effects of electrode placement, stimulus dosage and time.Semkovska, Maria; Keane, Deborah; Babalola, Oyemi; McLoughlin, Declan M; Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, St Patrick's University Hospital, James's Street, Dublin 8, Ireland; Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, St Patrick's University Hospital, James's Street, Dublin 8, Ireland. (2010-11-23)To clarify advantages of unilateral electrode placement as an optimisation technique for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression, aims were to meta-analyse unilateral ECT effects on cognitive performance relative to: (1) bitemporal electrode placement, (2) electrical dosage, and (3) time interval between final treatment and cognitive reassessment. Relevant electronic databases were systematically searched through May 2009, using the terms: "electroconvulsive therapy" and ["cogniti∗", "neuropsycholog∗", "memory", "attention", "executive", "spatial", or "intellectual"]. Inclusion criteria were: independent study of depressed patients receiving unilateral or bitemporal brief-pulse ECT; within-subjects design; use of objective cognitive assessments; available mean electrical dosage for unilateral samples. Standardized pre-post ECT weighted effect sizes were computed and pooled within 16 cognitive domains by a mixed-effects model. Thirty-nine studies (1415 patients) were meta-analysed. Up to three days after final treatment, unilateral ECT was associated with significantly smaller decreases in global cognition, delayed verbal memory retrieval, and autobiographical memory, compared to bitemporal ECT. Significant publication bias was found for autobiographical memory, favouring reporting of larger percentage loss. Higher unilateral ECT electrical dosage predicted larger decreases in verbal learning, delayed verbal memory retrieval, visual recognition, and semantic memory retrieval. When retested more than three days after completing ECT, no significant differences remained between the two electrode placements; for unilateral ECT, electrical dosage no longer predicted cognitive performance whereas increasing interval between final treatment and retesting predicted growing improvement in some variables. This interval is a more useful long-term predictor of cognitive function than electrode placement or electrical dosage following unilateral ECT.