FMRI response to negative words and SSRI treatment outcome in major depressive disorder: A preliminary study

Jeffrey Morris Miller, Noam Schneck, Greg J. Siegle, Yakuan Chen, R. Todd Ogden, Toshiaki Kikuchi, Maria A. Oquendo, J. John Mann, Ramin V. Parsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Clinically useful predictors of treatment outcome in major depressive disorder (MDD) remain elusive. We examined associations between functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal during active negative word processing and subsequent selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment outcome in MDD. Unmedicated MDD subjects (n=17) performed an emotional word processing fMRI task, and then received eight weeks of standardized antidepressant treatment with escitalopram. Lower pre-treatment BOLD responses to negative words in midbrain, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, paracingulate, anterior cingulate, thalamus and caudate nuclei correlated significantly with greater improvement following escitalopram treatment. Activation of these regions in response to negative words correlated significantly with reaction time for rating word relevance. Maximally predictive clusters of voxels identified using a cross-validation approach predicted 48% of the variance in response to treatment. This study provides preliminary evidence that SSRIs may be most beneficial in patients who are less able to engage cognitive control networks while processing negative stimuli. Differences between these findings and previous fMRI studies of SSRI treatment outcome may relate to differences in task design. Regional BOLD responses to negative words predictive of SSRI outcome in this study were both overlapping and distinct from those predictive of outcome with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in previous studies using the same task. Future studies may examine prediction of differential outcome across treatments in the context of a randomized controlled trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-305
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Dec 30


  • Biomarker
  • FMRI
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Prediction
  • SSRI
  • Treatment outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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