Resting EEG Measures of Brain Arousal in a Multisite Study of Major Depression

Christine Ulke, Craig E. Tenke, Jürgen Kayser, Christian Sander, Daniel Böttger, Lidia Y.X. Wong, Jorge E. Alvarenga, Maurizio Fava, Patrick J. McGrath, Patricia J. Deldin, Melvin G. Mcinnis, Madhukar H Trivedi, Myrna M. Weissman, Diego A. Pizzagalli, Ulrich Hegerl, Gerard E. Bruder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Several studies have found upregulated brain arousal during 15-minute EEG recordings at rest in depressed patients. However, studies based on shorter EEG recording intervals are lacking. Here we aimed to compare measures of brain arousal obtained from 2-minute EEGs at rest under eyes-closed condition in depressed patients and healthy controls in a multisite project—Establishing Moderators and Biosignatures of Antidepressant Response for Clinical Care (EMBARC). We expected that depressed patients would show stable and elevated brain arousal relative to controls. Eighty-seven depressed patients and 36 healthy controls from four research sites in the United States were included in the analyses. The Vigilance Algorithm Leipzig (VIGALL) was used for the fully automatic classification of EEG-vigilance stages (indicating arousal states) of 1-second EEG segments; VIGALL-derived measures of brain arousal were calculated. We found that depressed patients scored higher on arousal stability (Z = −2.163, P =.015) and A stages (dominant alpha activity; P =.027) but lower on B1 stages (low-voltage non-alpha activity, P =.008) compared with healthy controls. No significant group differences were observed in Stage B2/3. In summary, we were able to demonstrate stable and elevated brain arousal during brief 2-minute recordings at rest in depressed patients. Results set the stage for examining the value of these measures for predicting clinical response to antidepressants in the entire EMBARC sample and evaluating whether an upregulated brain arousal is particularly characteristic for responders to antidepressants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-12
Number of pages10
JournalClinical EEG and Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • EEG-vigilance
  • VIGALL 2.1
  • brain arousal regulation
  • electroencephalogram
  • major depressive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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