Improving Depression Outcome by Enhancing Memory for Cognitive Therapy

University of California (UC), Berkeley logo

University of California (UC), Berkeley

Status and phase

Phase 2


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)


Behavioral: Cognitive therapy for depression

Study type


Funder types



R34MH094535-01A1 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)

Details and patient eligibility


Existing drug and talking therapies for major depressive disorder (MDD) fail to produce complete recovery. This study will determine if substantial improvements to one of the most promising therapies, cognitive therapy (CT), can be achieved by administering a carefully designed procedure to improve memory for the content of CT sessions. This is important because (a) memory deficits are common in MDD patients and (b) each CT therapy session typically covers a complex array of topics and various skills are taught.

Full description

Background. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders and a leading cause of disability worldwide. Existing therapies fail to produce complete recovery. Progress toward improving outcome must include innovations that are safe, powerful, inexpensive and simple (for fast and effective dissemination). The proposed research seeks to test one such innovation. We seek to improve outcome by improving memory for the content of cognitive therapy (CT) sessions. CT is one of the most promising approaches to the treatment of MDD, yet there is room for improvement. We believe that adding memory enhancing strategies to CT may improve MDD outcome because: (a) MDD is often characterized by memory impairment, (b) there is evidence that the memory impairment is modifiable, (c) CT typically entails the activation of emotion, (d) emotion can impair or bias memory and (e) there is evidence that memory for the content of therapy sessions is poor. Aim. To evaluate if a strategy designed to enhance memory for the content of CT sessions improves treatment outcome for MDD. Cognitive support involves a series of specific procedures that support the encoding and retrieval stages of an episodic memory. It is hypothesized that CT+Cognitive Support, relative to CT-as-usual, will be associated with improved depression outcome at the end of treatment and 6 months after the completion of treatment. Research Plan. A small pilot feasibility RCT will be conducted on adults with MDD (n = 48) who will be randomized to one of two groups: (a) CT+Cognitive Support (n = 24) or (b) CT-as-usual (n = 24). Outcome measures will be taken at baseline, end of treatment, and 6 months after treatment. Long-term objective. To provide the pilot data needed to prepare a larger scale intervention study focused on improving outcomes by improving memory for the content of therapy sessions. The outcomes, if positive, will have major public health implications because simple, inexpensive memory enhancing strategies can be readily included as a standard feature in all psychosocial treatments for a broad range of mental illness. Project


48 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD), first episode, recurrent or chronic, according to DSM-IV-TR criteria
  • score of 24 or above on the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS)-Clinician and 26 or above on the IDS-Self-report
  • older than 18 years of age
  • if taking medications for mood, medications must be stable for the past 4 weeks
  • able and willing to give informed consent

Exclusion criteria

  • history of bipolar disorder
  • history of psychosis (including schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, or psychotic organic brain syndrome)
  • current non-psychotic Axis I disorder if it constitutes the principal diagnosis and if it requires treatment other than that offered in the project (including anxiety disorders including active PTSD, somatoform disorders, dissociative disorders, or eating disorders, etc.)
  • history of substance dependence in the past six months
  • IQ below 80
  • evidence of any medical disorder or condition that could cause depression or preclude participation in CT
  • current suicide risk sufficient to preclude treatment on an outpatient basis

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Double Blind

48 participants in 2 patient groups

Cognitive Therapy plus Cognitive Support
Experimental group
Cognitive therapy for depression with cognitive support added
Behavioral: Cognitive therapy for depression
Cognitive therapy
Active Comparator group
Cognitive therapy for depression
Behavioral: Cognitive therapy for depression

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from

Clinical trials

Find clinical trialsTrials by location
© Copyright 2024 Veeva Systems