A group of scientists at Stanford University has identified a new category of depression that affects approximately a quarter of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). As reported by the US scientific institution, depression is a common mental illness characterized by a constant feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in activities for prolonged periods of time. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, found that patients with this new subtype of depression showed difficulties in anticipatory planning, self-control, concentration, and behavior. The research involved 1,008 adults with MDD who were not receiving pharmacological treatment. These participants were given three commonly prescribed antidepressants.
Before and after the experiment, the scientists clinically assessed the participants’ depressive status and performed cognitive tests. It was found that 27% of the participants with MDD had poor performance on cognitive tasks and an inferior response to antidepressant treatments. This new profile was termed a “cognitive biotype.”
The researchers also conducted a substudy with 96 patients in which their brain activity was recorded by functional magnetic resonance imaging while they performed a cognitive task. The results indicated that cognitive biotype was associated with specific patterns of brain function.
Professor Leanne Williams highlighted that finding commonalities, such as similar brain function profiles, can help medical professionals provide individualized and effective treatment. It is suggested that incorporating objective cognitive measures, such as brain imaging, into the diagnosis could lead to better treatment, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach for all patients.
This discovery of a new subtype of depression provides a deeper understanding of the disease and may help improve the identification and treatment of patients with major depressive disorder.