A UCLA study finds noninvasive method that may help speed relief from depression disorder.
Depression is a major public health problem and leading cause of disability that affects 17 million people in the United States every year. The good news is: There are several antidepressant drugs on the market that are effective in treating depression. The bad news is: Less than one-third of people with the disorder find relief from depression with the first antidepressant that is prescribed for them. Finding the right antidepressant for individuals is a process of prolonged trial-and-error. Patients must wait weeks, months or even up to a year to see if the antidepressant will be effective for them.
Ready for some GOOD NEWS?
A 10-minute procedure in your doctor’s office can significantly help speed relief from this disorder by shortening this process of prolonged trial-and-error. A study by researchers at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA has found a new noninvasive way to predict which individuals will respond favorably to the most commonly used medications to treat depression — using brain wave recordings. This biomarker- a simple pair of brain-wave recordings, or electroencephalograms (EEGs) can predict whether the person will enter remission after just one week of treatment. Knowing whether a medication is going to work could eliminate months of waiting by the patient, and get them on effective treatment more quickly.
The researchers used the electroencephalogram recordings to predict recovery from depression in those taking escitalopram, a common antidepressant sold under the brand name Lexapro. Escitalopram works by increasing the levels of serotonin, a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter in the brain that helps to regulate mood.
Serotonin levels in the brain also maintain the ratio between slow ‘delta-theta’ brain waves and faster “alpha” brain waves. The brain uses this ratio between fast and slow waves to form chemical or electrical networks that support normal mood and thinking. Researchers reasoned that the effect of escitalopram in shifting the balance between delta–theta and alpha activity would predict the effectiveness of the drug in relieving symptoms of depression.
The researchers tested whether brain wave recordings in the first week of treatment would show that the antidepressant (as compared with a placebo) corrected the frequency imbalance — and predict a beneficial effect of medication on an individual’s depression after seven weeks of treatment.
After one week of taking escitalopram, the brain wave recordings of the people who eventually responded favorably to the treatment differed significantly from the measurements of those who did not benefit. The people whose brainwaves showed a large shift toward producing more delta–theta waves were less likely to enter remission with escitalopram treatment. Conversely, those people who shifted toward producing more alpha oscillations after one week of treatment with escitalopram were significantly more likely to find relief from their depression.