Title: Affective and social cognition as neurocognitive predictors of antidepressant treatment response

PhD-student: Vibeke Dam, NRU


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a serious public health problem worldwide. Currently 30-50% of patients do not respond to standard antidepressant drug treatment, precipitating the need for new ways to classify MDD patients along with identification of novel tools that can predict treatment response. Disruptions in affective and social cognition have long been established as a core feature in depressive symptomatology and recent studies suggest that changes in these cognitive processes may be a promising predictor for treatment outcome in MDD.

The aim of the proposed PhD-project is therefore to identify a set of affective and social neurocognitive markers which can be used to predict treatment response in MDD. This will be accomplished through the use of a novel neuropsychological test battery called the EMOTICOM which has been specifically developed to assess affective and social cognition. In a large clinical study, 100 patients suffering from MDD will be tested with the EMOTICOM before and after standard antidepressant drug treatment. The patients will also be compared to a reference sample of 100 healthy Danish individuals in order to determine which EMOTICOM tests are the most sensitive in differentiating healthy controls from depressed patients as well as which tests best predict treatment outcome. In addition, data from 35 women who underwent intervention with the prosocial hormone oxytocin will be used to determine the sensitivity of EMOTICOM outcomes to oxytocin, which will further serve to validate the EMOTICOM as a tool. Since the use of a bed-side test battery is cheap and fast, the EMOTICOM has the potential to become an easily implemented clinical tool for the individualization of treatment choice for depressed patients.