Pretreatment rostral anterior cingulate cortex theta activity in relation to symptom improvement in depression: A randomized clinical trial

Diego A. Pizzagalli, Christian A. Webb, Daniel G. Dillon, Craig E. Tenke, Jürgen Kayser, Franziska Goer, Maurizio Fava, Patrick McGrath, Myrna Weissman, Ramin Parsey, Phil Adams, Joseph Trombello, Crystal Cooper, Patricia Deldin, Maria A. Oquendo, Melvin G. McInnis, Thomas Carmody, Gerard Bruder, Madhukar H. Trivedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE Major depressive disorder (MDD) remains challenging to treat. Although several clinical and demographic variables have been found to predict poor antidepressant response, these markers have not been robustly replicated to warrant implementation in clinical care. Increased pretreatment rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) theta activity has been linked to better antidepressant outcomes. However, no prior study has evaluated whether this marker has incremental predictive validity over clinical and demographic measures. OBJECTIVE To determine whether increased pretreatment rACC theta activity would predict symptom improvement regardless of randomization arm. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A multicenter randomized clinical trial enrolled outpatients without psychosis and with chronic or recurrent MDD between July 29, 2011, and December 15, 2015 (Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response for Clinical Care [EMBARC]). Patients were consecutively recruited from 4 university hospitals: 634 patients were screened, 296 were randomized to receive sertraline hydrochloride or placebo, 266 had electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings, and 248 had usable EEG data. Resting EEG data were recorded at baseline and 1 week after trial onset, and rACC theta activity was extracted using source localization. Intent-to-treat analysis was conducted. Data analysis was performed from October 7, 2016, to January 19, 2018. INTERVENTIONS An 8-week course of sertraline or placebo. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score (assessed at baseline and weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8). RESULTS The 248 participants (160 [64.5%] women, 88 [35.5%] men) with usable EEG data had a mean (SD) age of 36.75 (13.15) years. Higher rACC theta activity at both baseline (b=−1.05; 95% CI, −1.77 to −0.34; P = .004) and week 1 (b=−0.83; 95% CI, −1.60 to −0.06; P < .04) predicted greater depressive symptom improvement, even when controlling for clinical and demographic variables previously linked with treatment outcome. These effects were not moderated by treatment arm. The rACC theta marker, in combination with clinical and demographic variables, accounted for an estimated 39.6% of the variance in symptom change (with 8.5% of the variance uniquely attributable to the rACC theta marker). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Increased pretreatment rACC theta activity represents a nonspecific prognostic marker of treatment outcome. This is the first study to date to demonstrate that rACC theta activity has incremental predictive validity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-554
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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