Can a Wristband Tell Who Will Respond Best to Depression Treatment?

A “smartband” that records a person’s movement over a 24-hour cycle may be help make depression treatments more effective for medication-resistant patients.

smartbandAccording to a report published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the wristband may be capable of helping doctors determine which patients with major depressive disorder are likely to respond to commonly prescribed drugs such as Prozac or Zoloft.

“Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are today’s mainstay for depression treatment but patients and their physicians may go through many months, doses, and different SSRIs trying to get results,” said W. Vaughn McCall from Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

McCall and colleagues say the non-obtrusive wristband can help identify people who are “night owls”, who are most likely to respond to treatments including SSRIs.

“What our findings suggest is that night owls — the group most likely to be depressed — also look like the patients, who are most likely to respond. The larks are more likely to need two drugs,” McCall explained.

However, McCall also concedes his study including 58 participants was very small, and the findings should be considered preliminary.

Larks, on the other hand, might better respond to a different class of drugs, such as bupropion, or Wellbutrin, which unlike SSRIs, target the neurotransmitter dopamine, providing a slight stimulation that may help larks readjust their lowest activity times — which should correspond with deep sleep times — to slightly later in the day, McCall said.

“The rest-activity pattern of patients may be one of the first biomarkers to emerge. It gives us a place to start,” concluded McCall.

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