Predicting Treatment Response to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia by Integrating Local Neural Information

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Abstract

IMPORTANCE

Although neuroimaging research has made substantial progress in identifying the large-scale neural substrate of anxiety disorders, its value for clinical application lags behind expectations. Machine-learning approaches have predictive potential for individual-patient prognostic purposes and might thus aid translational efforts in psychiatric research.

OBJECTIVE

To predict treatment response to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on an individual-patient level based on functional magnetic resonance imaging data in patients with panic disorder with agoraphobia (PD/AG).

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS

We included 49 patients free of medication for at least 4 weeks and with a primary diagnosis of PD/AG in a longitudinal study performed at 8 clinical research institutes and outpatient centers across Germany. The functional magnetic resonance imaging study was conducted between July 2007 and March 2010.

INTERVENTIONS

Twelve CBT sessions conducted 2 times a week focusing on behavioral exposure.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

Treatment response was defined as exceeding a 50% reduction in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale scores. Blood oxygenation level–dependent signal was measured during a differential fear-conditioning task. Regional and whole-brain gaussian process classifiers using a nested leave-one-out cross-validation were used to predict the treatment response from data acquired before CBT.

RESULTS

Although no single brain region was predictive of treatment response, integrating regional classifiers based on data from the acquisition and the extinction phases of the fear-conditioning task for the whole brain yielded good predictive performance (accuracy, 82%; sensitivity, 92%; specificity, 72%; P < .001). Data from the acquisition phase enabled 73% correct individual-patient classifications (sensitivity, 80%; specificity, 67%; P < .001), whereas data from the extinction phase led to an accuracy of 74% (sensitivity, 64%; specificity, 83%; P < .001). Conservative reanalyses under consideration of potential confounders yielded nominally lower but comparable accuracy rates (acquisition phase, 70%; extinction phase, 71%; combined, 79%).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE

Predicting treatment response to CBT based on functional neuroimaging data in PD/AG is possible with high accuracy on an individual-patient level. This novel machine-learning approach brings personalized medicine within reach, directly supporting clinical decisions for the selection of treatment options, thus helping to improve response rates.

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