A New Subtype of Depression Identified

adminDepression, Major Depression, Mental Health, Treatments of Depression Leave a Comment

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open by scientists at Stanford Medicine has revealed a previously unrecognized form of depression. This subtype is distinguished by cognitive impairments and does not respond as well to commonly prescribed antidepressant medications. The findings contribute to ongoing research aiming to identify treatments tailored to specific biotypes of depression, each with unique biological characteristics.

The researchers examined 1,008 adults who had not previously taken medication for major depressive disorder. They assigned the participants to one of three commonly prescribed antidepressants: escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft), which affect serotonin levels, or venlafaxine-XR (Effexor), which affects both serotonin and norepinephrine.

The re­searchers conducted cognitive tests and brain scans on the participants before and after treatment. They discovered that 27% of the participants belonged to a specific cognitive biotype. This group exhibited symptoms such as slower thinking, difficulty sleeping, impaired cognitive function on behavioral tests, and decreased activity in certain frontal brain regions.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that individuals with the cognitive biotype were less responsive to typical antidepressant medications in comparison to those without. This finding implies that widely prescribed antidepressants may not be the most effective treatment option for everyone dealing with depression.

The researchers believe that their findings have the potential to improve the diagnosis and treatment of depression. They suggest that by measuring behavior and utilizing imaging techniques, it may be possible to identify different types of depression, known as biotypes. This could then allow for tailored treatments for each specific biotype. For instance, they are currently investigating a medication called guanfacine, which specifically targets the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – a region of the brain involved in cognitive control.

This study represents a crucial advancement in the quest for personalized depression treatments. However, further research is necessary to confirm the cognitive biotype and identify the most effective treatment options for individuals with this specific subtype of depression.

Here are some key takeaways from the study:

  • Individuals who possess the cognitive biotype tend to show reduced response to commonly recommended antidepressant medications.
  •  By using behavior measurement and imaging techniques, it may be possible to identify different subtypes of depression.
  •  Different treatments could be tailored to each biotype.

This study brings promising news for individuals suffering from depression, implying that personalized and more effective treatment options could be within reach.


Stanford Medicine. (2023, June 23). A subtype of depression identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/06/230623161204.htm

Hack LM, Tozzi L, Zenteno S, et al. A Cognitive Biotype of Depression Linking Symptoms, Behavior Measures, Neural Circuits, and Differential Treatment Outcomes: A Prespecified Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(6):e2318411. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.18411

Stanford Medicine-led research identifies a subtype of depression. (2023, June 22). News Center. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2023/06/depression-subtype.html