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What Antidepressant Works For You? Brain Scans Can Now Predict

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Image via: SHAWN ROCCO

Antidepressants — they keep millions of people functioning on a daily basis, while at the same time stabilizing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

These types of drugs are also known for treating major depressive disorder and many anxiety disorders.

However, due to the vast selection of different antidepressants to choose from, it may take months before you find the right drug

But according to a new study, science is starting to change that.

Researchers at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA conducted a study which aimed at predicting the effectiveness of an antidepressant using brain wave recordings.

A simple biomarker (a pair of brain-wave recordings) can forecast whether the person will enter remission after just one week of treatment, UCLA researchers suggested.

According to Dr. Andrew Leuchter, the lead author of the study, this new research can help eliminate the long, stressful wait time for those who hop from one medication to another, hoping to find the right one.

“Knowing whether a medication is going to work could eliminate weeks of waiting for the patient, and get them on effective treatment more quickly.”

When testing the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant Lexapro, or generically known as escitalopram, researchers were able to predict recovery from depression using electroencephalogram recordings.

Like other antidepressants, Lexapro’s primary mechanism of action comprises of increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter located in the presynaptic cell, by limiting reabsorption.

This mechanism of action consequently causes a change in mood and behavior, thus treating depressive symptoms.

Serotonin levels in the brain are also responsible for stabilizing the slow and faster brain waves, researchers stated.

The brain uses this ratio between fast and slow waves to form chemical or electrical networks that support healthy mood and thinking.

This ratio between the slow and fast waves causes a chemical reaction which helps regulate the mood and thinking patterns in the brain.

“The researchers tested whether brain wave recordings in the first week of treatment would show that the antidepressant (as compared with a placebo) corrected the frequency imbalance — and predict a beneficial effect of medication on an individual’s depression after seven weeks of treatment,” UCLA wrote.

All in all, researchers collected data from 194 people, aged between 18 to 70 years old, all with clinical depression.

The study was broken down into three separate groups: two comprised of 70 and 76 patients, each treated with Lexapro for seven weeks, and the third group of 48 patients treated with a placebo.

The groups who received Lexapro were placed in other studies to analyze just how effective this particular SSRI drug works compared to other types of antidepressants.

All the patients were subjected to an electroencephalogram before taking any drugs, and the second one after patients completed one full week of treatment or placebo.

Researchers quickly noticed that after one week of therapy with Lexapro, patients began responding with distinct brain wave recordings in contrast to the other subjects.

The brain wave recordings did not, however, predict treatment results for those who received a placebo instead of an antidepressant.

“Our biomarker selectively predicted remission with medication, but not placebo. This confirmed that we can differentiate a true, specific response to a drug from a non-specific placebo response. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a biomarker that differentiates placebo remission from drug remission has been reported,” Dr. Leuchter said.

With this much progress in place, researchers are now turning their attentions towards other antidepressant drugs.

Researchers are planning to investigate other antidepressants using the same brain wave recording technique, with hopes to shorten the wait time for depressive patients in the near future.

Samuel Rodriguez is a cognition and social writer at Mental Daily. He is currently pursuing a M.A. in Behavior Analysis. In his time off, he loves to travel, eat and play the drums.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Jason Shawtz

    November 8, 2016 at 1:43 am

    Read about this on Lifehack. Interesting read.

  2. Johnny

    November 10, 2016 at 2:02 am

    I’m on escitalopram and alprazolam…I suffer lack of energy and I sleep like 24/7 …anybody same problem?

  3. epicgurus

    November 10, 2016 at 2:03 am

    ANTIDEPRESSANTS ARE A COMPLETE SCAM. THE TERM “ANTIDEPRESSANT” IN ITSELF IS A MARKETING PLOY– IT DOES NOT KILL DEPRESSION LIKE AN ANTIBIOTIC KILLS BACTERIA— ANTIDEPRESSANTS ARE SIMPLY PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS WITH DANGEROUS SIDE EFFECTS. ONCE YOU GET ON THEM YOU WILL HAVE A VERY DIFFICULT TIME GETTING OFF AND THAT IS HOW THE DRUG COMPANIES GET YOU— ONCE YOU START THEM THEY HAVE A LONG TERM CUSTOMER.

  4. Krystal Mel

    November 10, 2016 at 2:03 am

    I was on 10 mg lexapro and it made things worse.Now I’m on 40 mg of prozac and 5 mg of abilify..I dunno if it’s actually helping yet.

  5. Aiden Cocco

    November 10, 2016 at 2:04 am

    I’m been on fluoxetine, lorazepam, amitriptyline, sertraline and risperidone. I tend to abuse my drugs and having borderline personality disorder, OCD and bipolar disorder does not help in a good treatment plan.

  6. TeddyisFluffy

    November 10, 2016 at 2:05 am

    Lexapro is terrible as far as physical side effects go. Hopefully brain scans can predict that too

  7. Sarah Tomson

    November 10, 2016 at 2:05 am

    My therapist suggested antidepressants to help with my current state of mind and out look on my life basically. The only thing that worries me is the side affects and apparently weight gain if I take them? Maybe I should ask once I see the doctor next week.

  8. Michelle Bono

    November 10, 2016 at 2:06 am

    I don’t care what anyone says… antidepressants were the best thing to happen to me. finally feeling fine, feeling okay after relentlessly being suicidal for months is indescribable.

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