One big problem with treating people with depression is finding the right treatment for them. Many patients have to try one medication after another in order to find just the right one. Some patients cannot take medications but do well with therapy. Finding the right treatment could take a depressingly long time.
But how about if there was a diagnostic test patients could take which tells them what medications would work best for them before actually trying the drugs? The test would be a brain imaging scan that looks for specific things called biomarkers.
This is the hope of a promising new study at Emory University funded by the National Institutes of Health. Details of the study can be found at JAMA Psychiatry, June 12, 2013.
In case you let your subscription lapse, here’s a bit from the press release about the study from the NIH website:
Using a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, they imaged pre-treatment resting brain activity in 63 depressed patients. PET pinpoints what parts of the brain are active at any given moment by tracing the destinations of a radioactively-tagged form of glucose, the sugar that fuels its metabolism.
They compared brain circuit activity of patients who achieved remission following treatment with those who did not improve.
No — I didn’t understand that, either.
Of course, a lot more testing would need to be done in order to make sure this test works as well as preliminary results suggest. If it does, then would be a huge leap forward in treatment of mental illness.