Brainstem glucose metabolism predicts reward dependence scores in treatment-resistant major depression

Guo-Rong Wu, Chris Baeken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: It has been suggested that individual differences in temperament could be involved in the (non-)response to antidepressant (AD) treatment. However, how neurobiological processes such as brain glucose metabolism may relate to personality features in the treatment-resistant depressed (TRD) state remains largely unclear.

METHODS: To examine how brainstem metabolism in the TRD state may predict Cloninger's temperament dimensions Harm Avoidance (HA), Novelty Seeking (NS), and Reward Dependence (RD), we collected 18fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (18FDG PET) scans in 40 AD-free TRD patients. All participants were assessed with the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). We applied a multiple kernel learning (MKL) regression to predict the HA, NS, and RD from brainstem metabolic activity, the origin of respectively serotonergic, dopaminergic, and noradrenergic neurotransmitter (NT) systems.

RESULTS: The MKL model was able to significantly predict RD but not HA and NS from the brainstem metabolic activity. The MKL pattern regression model identified increased metabolic activity in the pontine nuclei and locus coeruleus, the medial reticular formation, the dorsal/median raphe, and the ventral tegmental area that contributed to the predictions of RD.

CONCLUSIONS: The MKL algorithm identified a likely metabolic marker in the brainstem for RD in major depression. Although 18FDG PET does not investigate specific NT systems, the predictive value of brainstem glucose metabolism on RD scores however indicates that this temperament dimension in the TRD state could be mediated by different monoaminergic systems, all involved in higher order reward-related behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date28 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jan 2021


  • 18FDG
  • PET
  • TCI
  • depression
  • reward dependence
  • treatment resistance


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