Vocal acoustic biomarkers of depression severity and treatment response

Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Oct 1;72(7):580-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.03.015. Epub 2012 Apr 26.


Background: Valid, reliable biomarkers of depression severity and treatment response would provide new targets for clinical research. Noticeable differences in speech production between depressed and nondepressed patients have been suggested as a potential biomarker.

Methods: One hundred five adults with major depression were recruited into a 4-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research methodology study. An exploratory objective of the study was to evaluate the generalizability and repeatability of prior study results indicating vocal acoustic properties in speech may serve as biomarkers for depression severity and response to treatment. Speech samples, collected at baseline and study end point using an automated telephone system, were analyzed as a function of clinician-rated and patient-reported measures of depression severity and treatment response.

Results: Regression models of speech pattern changes associated with clinical outcomes in a prior study were found to be reliable and significant predictors of outcome in the current study, despite differences in the methodological design and implementation of the two studies. Results of the current study replicate and support findings from the prior study. Clinical changes in depressive symptoms among patients responding to the treatments provided also reflected significant differences in speech production patterns. Depressed patients who did not improve clinically showed smaller vocal acoustic changes and/or changes that were directionally opposite to treatment responders.

Conclusions: This study supports the feasibility and validity of obtaining clinically important, biologically based vocal acoustic measures of depression severity and treatment response using an automated telephone system.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00406952.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sertraline / therapeutic use*
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Sertraline

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00406952