Neural and Behavioral Predictors of Treatment Efficacy on Mood Symptoms and Cognition in Mood Disorders: A Systematic Review

Front Psychiatry. 2018 Jul 26:9:337. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00337. eCollection 2018.


Background: The clinical and etiological heterogeneity of mood disorders impede identification of effective treatments for the individual patient. This highlights a need for early neuronal and behavioral biomarkers for treatment efficacy, which can provide a basis for more personalized treatments. The present systematic review aimed to identify the most consistent neuronal and behavioral predictors of treatment efficacy on mood symptoms and cognitive impairment in mood disorders. Methods: We identified and included 60 original peer-reviewed studies investigating neuroimaging and behavioral predictors of treatment efficacy within the domains of emotional and non-emotional cognition, structural neuroimaging, and resting state functional connectivity in patients with unipolar or bipolar disorder. Results: Lower baseline responsivity in limbic regions coupled with heightened medial and dorsal prefrontal responses to emotional stimuli were the most consistent predictors of response to pharmacotherapy for depression. In contrast, heightened limbic and ventral prefrontal reactivity to emotional stimuli seemed to predict efficacy of psychological interventions. Early modulation of fronto-limbic activity and reduction in negative bias were also associated with treatment response. Better performance on non-emotional tests at baseline was relatively consistently associated with efficacy on mood symptoms, whereas the association between neural activity during non-emotional tests and treatment response was less clear. Other baseline factors associated with treatment response were greater white matter integrity, resting state functional connectivity, more prefrontal gray matter volume as well as an early increase following short administered treatment. Finally, emerging evidence indicates that baseline cognitive deficits are associated with greater chances of achieving treatment efficacy on cognition. Conclusions: Patients' profile of emotional and non-emotional cognition and neural activity-and the early treatment-associated changes in neural and cognitive function-may be useful for guiding treatments for depression. While cognitive deficits at baseline seem to improve chances of treatment efficacy on cognition, more studies of this association are urgently needed.

Keywords: biomarker; cognition; mood disorders; neuroimaging; personalized medicine; precision medicine; treatment; treatment efficacy.