Recent reviews have questioned the efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) above placebo response, and their working mechanisms remain unclear. New approaches to understanding the effects of SSRIs are necessary to enhance their efficacy. The aim of this study was to explore the possibilities of using cross-sectional network analysis to increase our understanding of symptom connectivity before and after SSRI treatment.
In two randomized controlled trials (total N = 178), we estimated Gaussian graphical models among 20 symptoms of the Beck Depression Inventory-II before and after 8 weeks of treatment with the SSRI paroxetine. Networks were compared on connectivity, community structure, predictability (proportion explained variance), and strength centrality (i.e., connectedness to other symptoms in the network).
Symptom severity for all individual BDI-II symptoms significantly decreased over 8 weeks of SSRI treatment, whereas interconnectivity and predictability of the symptoms significantly increased. At baseline, three communities were detected; five communities were detected at week 8.
Findings suggest the effects of SSRIs can be studied using the network approach. The increased connectivity, predictability, and communities at week 8 may be explained by the decrease in depressive symptoms rather than specific effects of SSRIs. Future studies with larger samples and placebo controls are needed to offer insight into the effects of SSRIs.
The trials described in this manuscript were funded by the NIMH.
5 R10 MH55877 https://reporter.nih.gov/project-details/6186633).
R01 MH55502 https://reporter.nih.gov/project-details/2034618).