Three Depression Subtypes Identified Using Brain Imaging

November 19, 2018

Using brain imaging, researchers have identified three distinct neurophysiological subtypes of depression—one of which does not respond to treatment with selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors. They recently published their findings in Scientific Reports.

“It has always been speculated that different types of depression exist, and they influence the effectiveness of [SSRIs],” said researcher Kenji Doya, PhD, a professor in the neural computational unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan. “But there has been no consensus.”

Researchers came to their findings after collecting clinical, biological, and life history data from 67 people newly diagnosed with depression and 67 people without depression. Magnetic resonance imaging also measured resting state functional connectivity in as many as 78 brain regions of participants.

Alkermes' Depression Treatment Fails to Get FDA Panel Backing

Kenji Doya
    Kenji Doya, PhD

By developing and applying a multiple co-clustering method to the large dataset, researchers identified a trio of depression subtypes characterized by functional connectivity between the right angular gyrus and other areas in the default mode network and childhood trauma.

Patients with increased functional connectivity of the brain as well as childhood trauma experience had a depression subtype unresponsive to SSRIs, researchers reported. Patients without increased functional connectivity of the brain or without childhood trauma, however, tended to respond to SSRI treatment.

The study “provides scientists studying neurobiological aspects of depression a promising direction in which to pursue their research,” Dr. Doya said.

—Jolynn Tumolo


Tokuda T, Yoshimoto J, Shimizu Y, et al. Identification of depression subtypes and relevant brain regions using a data-driven approach. Scientific Reports. 2018 September 20;8(1):14082.

Herlekar I. Researchers identify three shades of blue [press release]. Okinawa, Japan: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University; October 30, 2018.