The Manchester ECT and ketamine study has featured several times on this blog (just type ketamine into the search box and the posts will appear). The study is funded to the tune of about a million pounds by the National Institute for Health Research (“We invest in excellence. Our funding goes to the best research studies that have been shaped by the leading academics and clinicians of the nation. Funding decisions, assessed on the basis of the importance of the research question, the quality of the science, and value for money, are made by independent, expert panels and committees and include patient and public representatives.”) The lead researcher is Ian Muir Anderson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Manchester. The stated aim of the study is to see if adding ketamine to the anaesthetic during ECT reduces the damaging cognitive effects of ECT and enhances the effects on symptoms of depression. This always seemed like a long shot as generally attempts to reduce the cognitive damage of ECT are accompanied by a reduction in effectiveness. Additionally, patients were to undergo brain scans and give DNA samples, and I have a suspicion that for the researchers this was the most interesting part of the study.
Some results of the study have recently emerged at the 29th Congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP). They can be seen here, on the FirstWord Pharma website.
Apparently the addition of ketamine to the anaesthetic did not significantly speed up clinical response or reduce adverse cognitive effects. On one test of cognitive function the patients who had been given ketamine did significantly worse than those who had not.