Anterior cingulate activity as a predictor of degree of treatment response in major depression: Evidence from brain electrical tomography analysis.


Objective: The anterior cingulate cortex has been implicated in depression. Results are best interpreted by considering anatomic and cytoarchitectonic subdivisions. Evidence suggests depression is characterized by hypoactivity in the dorsal anterior cingulate, whereas hyperactivity in the rostral anterior cingulate is associated with good response to treatment. The authors tested the hypothesis that activity in the rostral anterior cingulate during the depressed state has prognostic value for the degree of eventual response to treatment. Whereas prior studies used hemodynamic imaging, this investigation used EEG.
Method: The authors recorded 28-channel EEG data for 18 unmedicated patients with major depression and 18 matched comparison subjects. Clinical outcome was assessed after nortriptyline treatment. Of the 18 depressed patients, 16 were considered responders 4–6 months after initial assessment. A median split was used to classify response, and the pretreatment EEG data of patients showing better (N=9) and worse (N=9) responses were analyzed with low-resolution electromagnetic tomography, a new method to compute
three-dimensional cortical current density for given EEG frequency bands according to a Talairach brain atlas.
Results: The patients with better responses showed hyperactivity (higher
theta activity) in the rostral anterior cingulate (Brodmann’s area 24/32). Follow-up analyses demonstrated the specificity of this finding, which was not confounded by age or pretreatment depression severity.
Conclusions: These results, based on electrophysiological imaging, not only support hemodynamic findings implicating activation of the anterior cingulate as a predictor of response in depression, but they also suggest that differential activity in the rostral anterior cingulate is associated with gradations of response.


Diego A. Pizzagalli
Roberto D. Pascual-Marqui
Jack B. Nitschke
Terrence R. Oakes
Christine L Larson
Heather C. Abercrombie
Stacey M. Schaefer
John V. Koger
Ruth M. Benca
Richard J. Davidson