Functional MRI Scan Better Predicts Patient Response to Antidepressants

Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
Functional MRI (fMRI) scans could help predict whether a patient with depression will respond positively to antidepressant therapy.

In a study published in the journal Brain, investigators conducted fMRI scans on patients with major depressive disorder who would be starting antidepressant therapy.

The results of the study showed that patients who demonstrated more communication within 2 brain networks––error detection network and interference processing network––while making a mistake during an assigned cognitive test were less likely to respond to antidepressant medication.

The error detection network engages when an individual becomes aware that he or she has made a mistake, while the interference processing network activates when deciding what information to focus on.

“We believe that increased cross-talk within these networks may reflect a propensity to ruminate on negative occurrences, such as a mistake, or a deficit in emotional regulation when faced with a mistake, and our medications may be less effective in helping these types of patients,” said first author Natania Crane.

Antidepressants take approximately 8 to 12 weeks before making a noticeable impact, and finding the right drug can take months, according to the authors. Furthermore, patients may be unresponsive or suffer adverse events that require them to switch medications.

By predicting a patient’s response to an antidepressant, it could help reduce the time it takes for them to feel better, said corresponding author Scott Langenecker. Additionally, this approach could reduce health care costs.

Prior studies have shown that fMRI can identify discrete areas of the brain that are hyperactive or underactive in patients with major depressive disorder. These findings suggest that neuroimaging could be useful in predicting a patient’s response to a particular therapy.



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