Magnetic Resonance Imaging Measures of Brain Structure to Predict Antidepressant Treatment Outcome in Major Depressive Disorder

EBioMedicine. 2014 Dec 3;2(1):37-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2014.12.002. eCollection 2015 Jan.


Background: Less than 50% of patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) reach symptomatic remission with their initial antidepressant medication (ADM). There are currently no objective measures with which to reliably predict which individuals will achieve remission to ADMs.

Methods: 157 participants with MDD from the International Study to Predict Optimized Treatment in Depression (iSPOT-D) underwent baseline MRIs and completed eight weeks of treatment with escitalopram, sertraline or venlafaxine-ER. A score at week 8 of 7 or less on the 17 item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression defined remission. Receiver Operator Characteristics (ROC) analysis using the first 50% participants was performed to define decision trees of baseline MRI volumetric and connectivity (fractional anisotropy) measures that differentiated non-remitters from remitters with maximal sensitivity and specificity. These decision trees were tested for replication in the remaining participants.

Findings: Overall, 35% of all participants achieved remission. ROC analyses identified two decision trees that predicted a high probability of non-remission and that were replicated: 1. Left middle frontal volume < 14 · 8 mL & right angular gyrus volume > 6 · 3 mL identified 55% of non-remitters with 85% accuracy; and 2. Fractional anisotropy values in the left cingulum bundle < 0 · 63, right superior fronto-occipital fasciculus < 0 · 54 and right superior longitudinal fasciculus < 0 · 50 identified 15% of the non-remitters with 84% accuracy. All participants who met criteria for both decision trees were correctly identified as non-remitters.

Interpretation: Pretreatment MRI measures seem to reliably identify a subset of patients who do not remit with a first step medication that includes one of these commonly used medications. Findings are consistent with a neuroanatomical basis for non-remission in depressed patients.

Funding: Brain Resource Ltd is the sponsor for the iSPOT-D study (NCT00693849).

Keywords: Biomarker predictors; Decision trees; Diffusion tensor imaging; Magnetic resonance imaging; Major depressive disorder; Remission; Replication; iSPOT-D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Decision Trees
  • Demography
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Remission Induction
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents

Associated data