Can a Brain Scan Help Identify the Best Treatment for Your Type of Depression?

A new study out of Stanford Medicine identifies 6 biological subtypes of depression and finds different treatments work best for different subtypes.

Using brain scans, researchers at Stanford Medicine say they’ve identified six biological subtypes of depression.

The goal of their work is to more quickly determine the best treatment for each individual patient. Researchers say right now, medications are prescribed through a trial-and-error method, and it can take months or years to find the right one.

For their study, 801 people diagnosed with depression or anxiety underwent functional MRI scans while at rest or engaged in tasks to test their cognitive and emotional functioning.

Using machine learning, the researchers discovered six distinct patterns of activity. 250 of the participants were then randomly assigned to receive one of three commonly used antidepressants or behavioral talk therapy.

The results… different subtypes of depression responded differently to the treatments.

For example, patients with a biotype characterized by overactivity in cognitive brain regions had the best response to a drug commonly known as Effexor, while patients whose resting brains had higher activity in regions associated with depression and problem-solving had better symptom relief with talk therapy.

The senior author says this is the first time they’ve been able to demonstrate that depression may be caused by different disruptions in brain functioning.

She says, “In essence, it’s a demonstration of a personalized medicine approach for mental health based on objective measures of brain function.”

The study is being expanded to include more patients and possibly other kinds of treatment.

Source: Nature Medicine

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