Individuals with clinical depression are thought to perform at a suboptimal level on objective tests of memory function. In a specific test of visual memory, the Rey Complex Figure Test (RCFT), the original norms were established in a population of normal individuals with no known neuropsychological deficits. This present study was designed to determine whether or not individuals with clinical depression severe enough to require inpatient psychiatric hospitalization score at a lower level on the RCFT compared to a randomly selected matched sample from the normal RCFT standardization pool. Furthermore, if they do, does the degree of impairment correlate with the degree of depression? An archival study was conducted with 413 adolescent and adult psychiatric inpatients to whom the RCFT was administered as part of a neuropsychological battery. Two hundred and sixty six of these individuals were diagnosed as being clinically depressed, and this sample comprised the study group. They were compared to controls matched and drawn from the RCFT normative sample. The results of statistical analyses indicate that adolescents and adults with a diagnosis of depression perform significantly worse on the RCFT visual memory task than do controls. Further, evaluation of the recognition subtest revealed the presence of a retrieval pattern of memory. This indicated that RCFT information was encoded and stored in memory in depressed individuals just as it was in controls but, without cuing, the depressed were unable to effectively recall the information. The results also demonstrate low and inconsistent correlation between the level of depression, as measured by scores on the MMPI depression scale, and memory dysfunction, as measured by RCFT testing. Finally, a new set of norms was established for the use of the RCFT with both depressed adolescents and depressed adults.
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