Objective: Sleep deprivation has been shown to have an antidepressant benefit in a subgroup of depressed patients. Functional imaging studies by the authors and others have suggested that patients with elevated metabolic rates in the anterior cingulate gyrus at baseline are more likely to respond to either sleep deprivation or antidepressant medications than patients with normal metabolic rates. The authors extend their earlier work in a larger group of patients and explore additional brain areas with statistical probability mapping.
Method: Thirty-six patients with unipolar depression and 26 normal volunteers were studied with positron emission tomography before and after sleep deprivation. Response to sleep deprivation was defined as a 40% or larger decrease in total scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.
Results: One-third of the depressed patients had a significant response to sleep deprivation. Responders had higher relative metabolic rates in the medial prefrontal cortex, ventral anterior cingulate, and posterior subcallosal gyrus at baseline than depressed patients who did not respond to sleep deprivation and normal volunteers. Lower Hamilton depression scores correlated significantly with lower metabolic rates in the left medial prefrontal cortex. After sleep deprivation, significant decreases in metabolic rates occurred in the medial prefrontal cortex and frontal pole in the patients who responded positively to sleep deprivation.
Conclusions: High pretreatment metabolic rates and decreases in metabolic rates after treatment in the medial prefrontal cortex may characterize a subgroup of depressed patients who improve following sleep deprivation and, perhaps, other antidepressant treatments.