Brain imaging predictors of rapid treatment response to low-dose ketamine in patients with severe depression

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Brain MRI

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This joint PhD project is based at The University of Melbourne with a 12-month stay at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The main objectives of this project are to:

  • Utilise imaging data from two ketamine trials being conducted by the University of Melbourne team and develop predictive models to identify the patients who are likely to benefit from treatment.

Project description

Depression is a devastating condition for 1 in 10 Australians who are affected each year. Only about a third of patients will remit to the first antidepressant. After trialling a second, about half of patients won’t have remitted, which forms the usual definition of treatment-resistant depression (TRD). New treatment approaches for TRD are urgently needed.

Low-dose ketamine has emerged as an exciting treatment option for patients with severe depression. Unlike other treatments for depression, it has a rapid onset of action, with benefits emerging within hours. While producing profound antidepressant responses in many patients, its effects, as for other antidepressant treatments, are variable.

Brain imaging parameters show considerable promise in helping to identify the patients who are likely to benefit. The PhD project will utilise imaging data from two ketamine trials being conducted by the University of Melbourne team, and will develop predictive models to identify the patients who are likely to benefit from treatment.

The project will also examine short-term responses to ketamine as an additional input to the prediction models. Imaging analyses will be supervised by researchers at the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Australia’s premier psychiatric neuroimaging research group, where Prof. Ben Harrison is Deputy Scientific Director. The PhD candidate will develop the requisite skills to perform sophisticated brain imaging analyses using world-leading methodologies.

The research team at SJTU, led by Prof. Fang, have internationally recognised expertise in the development of prediction models using machine learning methods. The Melbourne-based PhD candidate will travel to Shanghai after the data has been collected, and once the brain imaging data have been analysed, to learn how to develop prediction models under the supervision of the SJTU team.

The project will be complemented by the project on 'A cohort study of neuromodulation interventions for major depressive disorder' and the collaboration will ensure a successful completion of both projects.

Supervision team

Professor Christopher Davey (The University of Melbourne)

Professor Yiru Fang (Shanghai Jiao Tong University)

Other joint PhD projects