Study Examines Response to Scopolamine in Major Depressive Disorder


Maura L. Furey, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., and colleagues conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study together with repeated functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine if baseline brain activity when processing emotional information can predict treatment response to scopolamine in major depressive disorder (MDD).

The need for improved treatment options for patients with MDD is critical, according to the study authors. Scopolamine produces rapid antidepressant effects and offers the opportunity to characterize potential biomarkers of treatment response within short periods.

The study included 15 currently depressed outpatients who met the criteria for recurrent MDD and 21 healthy participants between the ages of 18 and 55 years. Imaging was acquired as participants performed face-identity and face-emotion working memory tasks.

“These results implicate cholinergic and visual processing dysfunction in the pathophysiology of MDD and suggest that neural response in the visual cortex, selectively to emotional stimuli, may provide a useful biomarker for identifying patients who will respond favorably to scopolamine,” the study concludes. (Online First)

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online January 30, 2013. doi:10.1001/2013.jamapsychiatry.60