MRI scans could predict patients at risk of major depressive disorder

October 8, 2015, King's College London
MRI scans could predict patients at risk of major depressive disorder

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) could be used to predict which patients with recovered major depressive disorder are most likely to have more depressive episodes, according to a study published today in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers from King's College London and The University of Manchester, funded by the Medical Research Council, gave 64 patients who were in from major , and not on prescribed medication, fMRI scans to look for atypical connections in the brain.

During the scans the participants were asked to imagine acting badly towards their best friends and they experienced self-blaming emotions such as guilt. Over the following 14 months they were seen regularly and monitored for symptoms. At the end of the study 37 remained in remission while 27 had had a recurrence of their depression.

In the fMRI scans of those who went on to have another episode of depression there was a higher connectedness between two parts of the brain that have been previously linked to guilt – the anterior temporal lobe and the subgenual region.

People who remained in remission over the following year did not have this increased interconnectedness. The researchers also tested the approach on a control group of 39 people with no personal or family history of , finding that they also did not have the increased interconnectedness.

Using this information the researchers were able to predict who would go on to have another and who would remain in remission with an overall accuracy of 75 per cent (48 out of 64 predicted cases). For 25 per cent of patients the prediction failed (16 out of 64).

Dr Roland Zahn, lead researcher based at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London, said: 'This is the first study to show that fMRI can be used to make predictions about who will develop depression in the future, once they've recovered from a previous episode. These findings could mean that fMRI could help doctors make better decisions about who should continue their antidepressants and who should stop them.

'Before this approach can be rolled out and used in the clinic, we need to test it out in an independent group of patients and improve it, so that its accuracy reaches 80 per cent. If future studies can reach this mark, then this approach will be vitally important as there are currently no accurate ways to predict those who will have a recurrence following recovery.'

Dr Kathryn Adcock, head of neurosciences and mental health at the MRC, said: 'This exciting research has the potential to help identify those individuals who are more likely to suffer from recurrent episodes of depression and will therefore benefit most from long-term treatment and medication. This work could aid the discovery of new treatments for depression because clinical trials will be better able to focus on people with a more comparable disorder and experience.'

Explore further: Brain scans prove Freud right: Guilt plays key role in depression

More information: "Self-blame–Selective Hyperconnectivity Between Anterior Temporal and Subgenual Cortices and Prediction of Recurrent Depressive Episodes." JAMA Psychiatry. Published online October 07, 2015. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1813

Related Stories

Brain scans prove Freud right: Guilt plays key role in depression

June 4, 2012
Scientists have shown that the brains of people with depression respond differently to feelings of guilt – even after their symptoms have subsided.

Antidepressants beneficial for women with postnatal depression

May 19, 2015
Antidepressants are associated with better rates of treatment response and remission for women with postnatal depression, when compared to a placebo, according to a new systematic review by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology ...

Researchers use brain scans to predict response to antipsychotic medications

August 28, 2015
Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered that brain scans can be used to predict patients' response to antipsychotic drug treatment. The findings are published online in the latest issue ...

fMRI may take guesswork out of schizophrenia Rx

September 22, 2015
(HealthDay)—Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) might someday help psychiatrists quickly determine which antipsychotic drugs work best for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, according to research ...

New biological evidence reveals link between brain inflammation and major depression

January 28, 2015
A new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that the measure of brain inflammation in people who were experiencing clinical depression was increased by 30 per cent. The findings, published today ...

Psoriasis, risk of depression in the US population

September 30, 2015
The chronic inflammatory skin condition psoriasis was associated with the risk of major depression, although the risk was unrelated to the severity of the disorder, according to an article published online by JAMA Dermatology.

Recommended for you

Length of eye blinks might act as conversational cue

December 12, 2018
Blinking may feel like an unconscious activity, but new research by Paul Hömke and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, suggests that humans unknowingly perceive eye blinks as nonverbal cues when ...

Increased motor activity linked to improved mood

December 12, 2018
Increasing one's level of physical activity may be an effective way to boost one's mood, according to a new study from a team including scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the ...

How bullying affects the brain

December 12, 2018
New research from King's College London identifies a possible mechanism that shows how bullying may influence the structure of the adolescent brain, suggesting the effects of constantly being bullied are more than just psychological.

High-dose antipsychotics place children at increased risk of unexpected death

December 12, 2018
Children and young adults without psychosis who are prescribed high-dose antipsychotic medications are at increased risk of unexpected death, despite the availability of other medications to treat their conditions, according ...

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

December 11, 2018
Research in recent years has linked a person's physical or social environment to their well-being. Stress wears down the body and compromises the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illnesses and other conditions. ...

You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think

December 11, 2018
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.