Treatment Response Prediction in Major Depressive Disorder Using Multimodal MRI and Clinical Data: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial

Am J Psychiatry. 2024 Mar 1;181(3):223-233. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.20230206. Epub 2024 Feb 7.


Objective: Response to antidepressant treatment in major depressive disorder varies substantially between individuals, which lengthens the process of finding effective treatment. The authors sought to determine whether a multimodal machine learning approach could predict early sertraline response in patients with major depressive disorder. They assessed the predictive contribution of MR neuroimaging and clinical assessments at baseline and after 1 week of treatment.

Methods: This was a preregistered secondary analysis of data from the Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response in Clinical Care (EMBARC) study, a multisite double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial that included 296 adult outpatients with unmedicated recurrent or chronic major depressive disorder. MR neuroimaging and clinical data were collected before and after 1 week of treatment. Performance in predicting response and remission, collected after 8 weeks, was quantified using balanced accuracy (bAcc) and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) scores.

Results: A total of 229 patients were included in the analyses (mean age, 38 years [SD=13]; 66% female). Internal cross-validation performance in predicting response to sertraline (bAcc=68% [SD=10], AUROC=0.73 [SD=0.03]) was significantly better than chance. External cross-validation on data from placebo nonresponders (bAcc=62%, AUROC=0.66) and placebo nonresponders who were switched to sertraline (bAcc=65%, AUROC=0.68) resulted in differences that suggest specificity for sertraline treatment compared with placebo treatment. Finally, multimodal models outperformed unimodal models.

Conclusions: The study results confirm that early sertraline treatment response can be predicted; that the models are sertraline specific compared with placebo; that prediction benefits from integrating multimodal MRI data with clinical data; and that perfusion imaging contributes most to these predictions. Using this approach, a lean and effective protocol could individualize sertraline treatment planning to improve psychiatric care.

Keywords: Antidepressants; Machine Learning; Major Depressive Disorder; SSRIs.