by Emily Moskal for Stanford Medicine News
Using surveys, cognitive tests and brain imaging, researchers have identified a type of depression that affects about a quarter of patients. The goal is to diagnose and treat the condition more precisely.
Scientists at Stanford Medicine conducted a study describing a new category of depression — labeled the cognitive biotype — which accounts for 27% of depressed patients and is not effectively treated by commonly prescribed antidepressants.
Cognitive tasks showed that these patients have difficulty with the ability to plan ahead, display self-control, sustain focus despite distractions and suppress inappropriate behavior; imaging showed decreased activity in two brain regions responsible for those tasks.
Because depression has traditionally been defined as a mood disorder, doctors commonly prescribe antidepressants that target serotonin (known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs), but these are less effective for patients with cognitive dysfunction. Researchers said that targeting these cognitive dysfunctions with less commonly used antidepressants or other treatments may alleviate symptoms and help restore social and occupational abilities.
The study, published June 15 in JAMA Network Open, is part of a broader effort by neuroscientists to find treatments that target depression biotypes, according to the study’s senior author, Leanne Williams, PhD, the Vincent V.C. Woo Professor and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
“One of the big challenges is to find a new way to address what is currently a trial-and-error process so that more people can get better sooner,” Williams said. “Bringing in these objective cognitive measures like imaging will make sure we’re not using the same treatment on every patient.”
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