March 20 (UPI) -- A special form of brain imaging can identify whether depressed people will improve, according to a new study.
Using single photon emission computed tomography, called SPECT, researchers at Amen Clinics were able to categorize patients by measuring blood flow and activity patterns in their brains, according to research published Tuesday in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
"These findings have implications in understanding both depression to prognosis and its role as a risk factor for dementia," researchers wrote in the study.
Psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen and his researcher team compared the SPECT scans of 506 depressed patients who responded to treatment to scans of 237 patients in partial remission and 106 patients considered non-responders.
Among those who did not respond to treatment, researchers saw lower overall cerebral blood flow, especially in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes of the brain. These areas are known to be affected by Alzheimer's, including the right hippocampus and left precuneus.
"This is a critically important study," Amen said in a press release. "Knowing who is likely to get better from depression, and who is not, will help treating physicians be sensitive to which patients are likely to need more help and need to be monitored more closely."
A brain imaging expert, Amen founded the clinics in Costa Mesa and Walnut Creek, Calif.
"This finding will also lead to more personalized treatment," Amen said. "For patients with low brain activity, stimulating the brain will be more important than standard serotonin enhancing drugs that tend to lower brain activity."