Depressive Symptom Dimensions in Treatment-Resistant Major Depression and Their Modulation with Electroconvulsive Therapy

Benjamin S.C. Wade, Gerhard Hellemann, Randall T. Espinoza, Roger P. Woods, Shantanu H. Joshi, Ronny Redlich, Anders Jørgensen, Christopher C. Abbott, Ketil J. Oedegaard, Shawn M. McClintock, Leif Oltedal, Katherine L. Narr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective Symptom heterogeneity in major depressive disorder obscures diagnostic and treatment-responsive biomarker identification. Whether symptom constellations are differentially changed by electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) remains unknown. We investigate the clustering of depressive symptoms over the ECT index and whether ECT differentially influences symptom clusters. Methods The 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17) was collected from 111 patients with current depressive episode before and after ECT from 4 independent participating sites of the Global ECT-MRI Research Collaboration. Exploratory factor analysis of HDRS-17 items pre-and post-ECT treatment identified depressive symptom dimensions before and after ECT. A 2-way analysis of covariance was used to determine whether baseline symptom clusters were differentially changed by ECT between treatment remitters (defined as patients with posttreatment HDRS-17 total score ≤8) and nonremitters while controlling for pulse width, titration method, concurrent antidepressant treatment, use of benzodiazepine, and demographic variables. Results A 3-factor solution grouped pretreatment HDRS-17 items into core mood/anhedonia, somatic, and insomnia dimensions. A 2-factor solution best described the symptoms at posttreatment despite poorer separation of items. Among remitters, core mood/anhedonia symptoms were significantly more reduced than somatic and insomnia dimensions. No differences in symptom dimension trajectories were observed among nonremitting patients. Conclusions Electroconvulsive therapy targets the underlying source of depressive symptomatology and may confer differential degrees of improvement in certain core depressive symptoms. Our findings of differential trajectories of symptom clusters over the ECT index might help related predictive biomarker studies to refine their approaches by identifying predictors of change along each latent symptom dimension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of ECT
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Hamilton Depression Rating Scale
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • factor analysis
  • major depressive disorder
  • symptom heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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