Background: Past neuropsychological studies on depression have documented executive dysfunction and it has been reported that some dysfunction persists even after depressive symptoms disappear. Studies have shown a correlation between cerebrovascular lesions and executive dysfunction in depression among the elderly. The aim of the present study was to focus on executive functions in remitted major depressive disorder (MDD) patients, and to investigate whether remitted young and elderly patients show different patterns of executive dysfunction, and to ascertain the relationships with vascular lesions. Methods: Subjects were 79 inpatients with MDD and 85 healthy controls. Each subject received Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Stroop test, and Verbal Fluency Test (VFT) in a remitted state. Both the MDD and control groups were divided into young and elderly groups, and the performances between 4 groups were compared. Results: For Stroop test, the scores of the MDD group were significantly lower than controls. In addition, as for VFT, the scores for the elderly MDD group were significantly lower than the other groups. Multiple regression analysis showed that VFT scores were affected by the presence of vascular lesions. Conclusions: The results of the present study demonstrated that executive dysfunction remained even in a remitted state in MDD patients, but the patterns of impairment were different between young and elderly patients. The results also suggested that vascular lesions affect executive dysfunction, particularly in elderly depressive patients.
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