Accelerated Brain Aging in Adults With Major Depressive Disorder Predicts Poorer Outcome With Sertraline: Findings From the EMBARC Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) may be associated with accelerated brain aging (higher brain age than chronological age). This report evaluated whether brain age is a clinically useful biomarker by checking its test-retest reliability using magnetic resonance imaging scans acquired 1 week apart and by evaluating the association of accelerated brain aging with symptom severity and antidepressant treatment outcomes. Methods: Brain age was estimated in participants of the EMBARC (Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response in Clinical Care) study using T1-weighted structural magnetic resonance imaging (MDD n = 290; female n = 192; healthy control participants n = 39; female n = 24). Intraclass correlation coefficient was used for baseline-to-week-1 test-retest reliability. Association of baseline Δ brain age (brain age minus chronological age) with Hamilton Depression Rating Scale–17 and Concise Health Risk Tracking Self-Report domains (impulsivity, suicide propensity [measures: pessimism, helplessness, perceived lack of social support, and despair], and suicidal thoughts) were assessed at baseline (linear regression) and during 8-week-long treatment with either sertraline or placebo (repeated-measures mixed models). Results: Mean ± SD baseline chronological age, brain age, and Δ brain age were 37.1 ± 13.3, 40.6 ± 13.1, and 3.1 ± 6.1 years in MDD and 37.1 ± 14.7, 38.4 ± 12.9, and 0.6 ± 5.5 years in healthy control groups, respectively. Test-retest reliability was high (intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.98–1.00). Higher baseline Δ brain age in the MDD group was associated with higher baseline impulsivity and suicide propensity and predicted smaller baseline-to-week-8 reductions in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale–17, impulsivity, and suicide propensity with sertraline but not with placebo. Conclusions: Brain age is a reliable and potentially clinically useful biomarker that can prognosticate antidepressant treatment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Accelerated brain aging
  • Antidepressant
  • Brain age
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Placebo
  • Sertraline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Accelerated Brain Aging in Adults With Major Depressive Disorder Predicts Poorer Outcome With Sertraline: Findings From the EMBARC Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this