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Analysis of the sleeping brain quickly reveals which antidepressants are working

A new pilot study found that it is possible to analyze brain waves during REM sleep to quickly determine whether a particular antidepressant is likely to work in a particular patient with depression. The results could pave the way for faster treatment for major depression, which in some cases can take several months to find the right solution.

Depression can be difficult to treat, especially in people with major depressive disorder. Antidepressants are the most common first line treatment, especially SSRIs. However, the way they work means there will be a delay before changes are observed. In many cases, this can mean the patient is given a particular antidepressant and then waits four long weeks to see if it offers some relief.

About half of people who take an antidepressant for the first time will find that it doesn̵

7;t work. This means that after a few weeks they will be switched to a different antidepressant and restart the assessment cycle. This can be continued several times before an effective antidepressant is found, which upset the patient and puts them at risk in the meantime.

Some previous research has focused on ways to shorten this length of time, including using AI to predict the best antidepressant for a given patient. The latest study on the subject looked at brain waves generated during REM sleep, particularly prefrontal theta cordance.

A total of 37 patients diagnosed with major depression were examined just one week after starting an antidepressant drug. Compared to those in the control group, participants whose drugs were adjusted based on brain waves showed a far greater response to treatment.

While only 20 percent of the control group had improved over antidepressants within five weeks, nearly 88 percent of the brainwave analysis participants saw improvement over the same period, suggesting that this could be an effective way of determining which medications are used the most effective are patients. The results pave the way for a larger study on the subject.

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