Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a heterogeneous condition. Identifying the brain responses to antidepressant treatment is of particular interest as these may represent potential neural networks related to treatment response, forming one aspect of the biological markers of MDD. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is suitable for repeated measurements with short intervals because of its noninvasiveness, and can provide detailed time courses of functional alterations in prefrontal regions. Methods: We conducted a 12-week longitudinal study to explore prefrontal hemodynamic changes at 4-week intervals following sertraline treatment in 11 medication-naïve participants with MDD using 52-channel NIRS. Results: While all participants achieved remission after treatment, intra-class correlation coefficient of oxygenated hemoglobin [oxy-Hb] values throughout the 12-week observation was moderate at the spatially and temporally contiguous cluster located in the left inferior frontal and temporal gyri. There was a significant negative correlation between mean [oxy-Hb] values in the significant cluster at 4 weeks and changes in Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression total score from 4 to 8 weeks (r = −0.73, P = 0.011) and from 4 to 12 weeks (r = −0.63, P = 0.039). Limitations: Without healthy controls for comparison, we were unable to fully evaluate whether improvement of [oxy-Hb] activations after treatment in MDD reached normal levels or not. Conclusion: Our NIRS findings of detailed prefrontal hemodynamic alterations over short interval observations such as 4 weeks may have revealed potential trait marker for MDD and biological maker for predicting clinical response to sertraline treatment in MDD.
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