UCLA researchers have discovered a way to measure brain waves that can match which drugs can be successfully used on individuals diagnosed with depression, the school announced Sunday.
The test will reportedly eliminate a major problem for clinically-depressed persons and their doctors, who often must play a guessing game to find an effective anti-depressant from the dozens of drugs available.
Medical workers will be able to use brain patterns that can be measured outside the body to predict within a week how effective a drug will be, researchers announced.
The method, called the Biomarkers for Rapid Identification of Treatment Effectiveness in Major Depression (BRITE), was described in the journal Psychiatry Research by a team of four UCLA doctors. It measures changes in brain-wave patterns using quantitative electroencephalography -- a non-evasive, computerized measurement that recognizes specific alterations in brain-wave activity.
Researchers said these changes precede improvement in mood by many weeks and appear to serve as a biomarker that accurately predicts the effectiveness of a given medication.
"Until now, other than waiting, there has been no reliable method for predicting whether a medication would lead to a good response or remission," said lead author Andrew Leuchter, a UCLA psychiatry professor, in a news statement. "And that wait can be as long as 14 weeks. So these are very exciting findings for the patient suffering from depression.
"The BRITE results are a milestone in our efforts to develop clinically useful biomarkers for predicting treatment response in MDD (major depressive disorder)."
According to UCLA, major depressive disorder is a leading cause of disability, costing society in excess of $80 billion annually; approximately two-thirds of these costs reflect the enormous disability associated with the disorder. An estimated 15 million people in the United States experience a depressive episode each year, and early 17 percent of adults will experience major depression in their lifetime.
"BRITE study results suggest that the ATR biomarker could potentially provide the greatest clinical benefit for those patients who might be receiving a medication that is unlikely to help them," Leuchter said. "Our results suggest that it may be possible to switch these patients to a more effective treatment quickly. This would help patients and their physicians avoid the frustration, risk and expense of long and ineffective medication trials."