Rongrong Tao, M.D.

Fellow in Child & Adolescent Depression

Project Details

Mentor

Graham Emslie, M.D.


Institution

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center


Project

An fMRI Study of Amygdala Activation at Pre- and Post-Fluoxetine Treatment among Adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder


PROJECT title

An fMRI Study of Amygdala Activation at Pre- and Post-Fluoxetine Treatment among Adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder

PROJECT SUMMARY

Currently, our ability to predict antidepressant treatment response is highly limited. Using brain imaging technology that measures brain activity (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging: fMRI) to study neural abnormalities in major depressive disorder may ultimately improve clinicians’ ability to make optimal treatment choices for their patients.

The amygdala is a brain area that is critical in depressive disorders due to its role in emotion and stress responses and its extended connections to other key areas that are important in the manifestation of depression. Studies among adults with major depressive disorder have found exaggerated amygdala activation to facial expressions, and this hyperactivation disappears after antidepressant treatment. In addition, the extent of amygdala hyperactivation is found to predict depressive symptom reduction. No similar studies have been done in the pediatric population.

Dr. Tao will use fMRI to examine the associations between amygdala activation and adolescent depression while adolescents view photos with emotional expressions. Adolescents will be scanned twice: once at the beginning of the study (before medication has been started for depressed adolescents), and once at 8 weeks later.

The goals of Dr. Tao’s study are to determine:

  1. if adolescents with major depressive disorder have exaggerated amygdala response to facial expressions compared with non-depressed adolescents;
  2. if this exaggerated amygdala response disappears after 8 weeks of treatment with an antidepressant; and
  3. if amygdala activity measured prior to the initiation of antidepressant treatment predicts the magnitude of antidepressant treatment response.

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