SPECT imaging may ID those likely to respond to depression treatment

Mental illness can be difficult to quantify, with the complexity of the brain obscuring symptoms and improvements. But single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging may identify those likely to respond to treatment for depression by examining blood flow and activity patterns.

The results were published online March 20 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Knowing who is likely to get better from depression and who is not will help treating physicians be sensitive to which patients are likely to need more help and need to be monitored more closely." Said Amen. "This finding will also lead to more personalized treatment. For patients with low brain activity, stimulating the brain will be more important, than standard serotonin enhancing drugs that tend to lower brain activity."

The researchers examined SPECT scans of 507 individuals diagnosed with depression who responded to treatment, along with scans from 106 scans of patients who were considered non-responders. Those who did not respond to treatment had lower cerebral blood flow, primarily in the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. Activity was also diminished in areas associated with Alzheimer’s, such as the right hippocampus and left precuneus.