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Keywords:

  • major depression;
  • antidepressants;
  • rCBF;
  • SSRI;
  • functional imaging

Objective

The purpose of this study is to examine whether the reversal of compromised regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in older patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) is dependent on specific parameters of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment and to examine the efficacy of such treatment.

Methods

Forty-five patients with moderate MDD were studied following 8 weeks of treatment with SSRIs. Twelve patients displayed a positive response to SSRIs, whereas 33 patients did not respond to SSRI treatment. A comparison group of 30 healthy volunteers was also studied. The age of all participants was greater than 50 years. Age, gender, and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores were examined. The rCBF was assessed using 99mTc-ethyl cysteinate dimer single photon emission computed tomography after SSRI treatment.

Results

The rCBF levels in the right middle frontal cortex in non-responsive MDD patients were lower compared with responsive MDD patients. Compared with healthy controls, non-responders had significantly lower rCBF levels in the bilateral middle frontal cortex and insula and had significantly higher rCBF levels in the bilateral inferior frontal cortex and left middle temporal cortex. Compared with healthy controls, responders had significantly higher rCBF levels in the left inferior frontal, middle temporal, precentral, and fusiform gyrus. We found no changes in single photon emission computed tomography between pre-treatment and post-treatment stages for the responders to SSRI treatment.

Conclusion

Hypoperfusion in older, non-responsive MDD patients was primarily localized in the middle frontal cortex. It is possible that the responders to SSRI treatment at baseline already displayed higher rCBF values in the frontal regions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.