7T 1 H-MRS in major depressive disorder: a Ketamine Treatment Study

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Aug;43(9):1908-1914. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0057-1. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


The glutamatergic modulator ketamine has striking and rapid antidepressant effects in major depressive disorder (MDD), but its mechanism of action remains unknown. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) is the only non-invasive method able to directly measure glutamate levels in vivo; in particular, glutamate and glutamine metabolite concentrations are separable by 1H-MRS at 7T. This double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study that included 1H-MRS scans at baseline and at 24 h post ketamine and post-placebo infusions sought to determine glutamate levels in the pregenual anterior cingulate (pgACC) of 20 medication-free MDD subjects and 17 healthy volunteers (HVs) 24 h post ketamine administration, and to evaluate any other measured metabolite changes, correlates, or predictors of antidepressant response. Metabolite levels were compared at three scan times (baseline, post-ketamine, and post-placebo) in HVs and MDD subjects at 7T using a 1H-MRS sequence specifically optimized for glutamate. No significant between-group differences in 1H-MRS-measured metabolites were observed at baseline. Antidepressant response was not predicted by baseline glutamate levels. Our results suggest that any infusion-induced increases in glutamate at the 24-h post ketamine time point were below the sensitivity of the current technique; that these increases may occur in different brain regions than the pgACC; or that subgroups of MDD subjects may exist that have a differential glutamate response to ketamine.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / diagnostic imaging
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Ketamine