Effects of opioid dependence on visuospatial memory and its associations with depression and anxiety

Serenella Tolomeo (Lead / Corresponding author), F. Davey, Douglas Steele, Alex Baldacchino

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: The cognitive impact of opioid dependence is rarely measured systematically in everyday clinical practice even though both patients and clinicians accept that cognitive symptoms often occur in the opioid-dependent population. There are only a few publications which utilized computerized neuropsychological tests to assess possible impairments of visuospatial memory in opioid-dependent individuals either receiving opioid replacement therapy (ORT) or during subsequent short-term abstinence and the effects of anxiety and depression. Methods: We assessed a cohort of 102 participants, comprising i) a stable opioid-dependent group receiving methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) (n = 22), ii) a stable opioid-dependent group receiving buprenorphine (BMT) (n = 20), iii) a current abstinent but previously opioid-dependent group (ABS) (n = 8), and iv) a control group who have never been dependent on opioids. The Cambridge Neuropsychological Automated Test Battery (CANTAB) neuropsychological tasks undertaken by participants included: Delayed Matching to Sample (DMS), Pattern Recognition Memory (PRM), Spatial Recognition Memory (SRM), and Paired Associate Learning (PAL) tasks. Three clinical measures were used to assess the severity of anxiety and depressive illness: Hospital Anxiety Scale-Hospital Anxiety Depression (HADA)-(HADD), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (self-report) (ISD-SR). Results: The methadone- and buprenorphine-treated groups showed significant impairments (p < 0.001) in visuospatial memory tasks but not the abstinent group. Impairments in visuospatial memory strongly correlated with higher mood and anxiety symptom severity scores (p < 0.001). Discussion: These results are broadly consistent with previous studies. Uniquely, though, here we report a strong relationship between visuospatial memory and depression and anxiety scores, which might suggest common illness mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number743
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2019


  • Anxiety
  • Buprenorphine
  • Depression
  • Heroin
  • Methadone
  • Opioid dependence
  • memory


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