New Subtypes Of Depression Discovered

By Beth Leipholtz 11/05/18

For a new study, researchers set out to identify the subtypes of depression using "life history and MRI data."

two scientists working in a lab

New research sheds some light on why not all depression can be treated with medication, according to Medical News Today

Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan have identified three new depression subtypes. 

According to Professor Kenji Doya of the Neural Computation Unit, there has always been speculation about different subtypes of depression, but it had never been proven. 

A research team led by Doya studied data from 134 participants, half of which had recently been diagnosed with depression. Through questionnaires and blood tests, the research team gathered information about each individual’s life history, mental health, sleep pattern and other potential stressors in their life. 

The team utilized functional MRI scanners to gather information about each person’s brain activity. In doing so, they mapped 78 brain regions and the various connections between them.  

First study author Tomoki Tokuda, a statistician at OIST, says the challenge in this research was developing the right tool.

"The major challenge in this study was to develop a statistical tool that could extract relevant information for clustering similar subjects together," he said, according to Medical News Today.

Tokuda was able to create a new statistical method from which researchers could categorize more than 3,000 “measurable features”—such as childhood trauma and level of depressive episode—into five data clusters.

In doing so, researchers found that three of the five data clusters connected to different subtypes of depression. Additionally, the brain imaging shed light on the “functional connectivity” of brain areas connected to the angular gyrus, which is the region of the brain that has to do with procession language, numbers, spatial cognition and attention. 

The connection could predict whether or not SSRIs—the most common type of antidepressant—could effectively treat depression. 

According to the researchers, one of the subtypes that did not respond to medication correlated with “high functional connectivity as well as with childhood trauma.”

The other two subtypes of depression did respond to medication. Researchers found that this subtype had low brain connectivity and no instance of childhood trauma.

The results of this study could help doctors predict how effective certain medications and treatments may be for a patient, according to Doya.

"This is the first study to identify depression subtypes from life history and MRI data," said Doya, according to Medical News Today. "It provides scientists studying neurobiological aspects of depression a promising direction in which to pursue their research." 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.