Cortical Inhibition Function is Associated with Baseline Suicidal Symptoms and Post-Ketamine Suicidal Symptom Reduction Among Patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression and Strong Suicidal Ideation

SOURCE: Journal of Psychiatric Research. 161:48-53, 2023 May.

AUTHORS: Chen MH; Su TP; Chen LF; Li CT; Wu HJ; Lin WC; Tsai SJ; Bai YM; Mao WC; Tu PC; Jeng JS; Li WC

BACKGROUND: Whether cortical excitation and inhibition functions differ between patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and strong suicidal ideation (SI) and healthy subjects and whether 0.5 mg/kg ketamine infusion can modulate cortical excitation and inhibition functions among patients with TRD-SI remain unclear.

METHODS: A total of 29 patients with TRD-SI and 35 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were assessed using paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either a single 0.5-mg/kg ketamine or 0.045-mg/kg midazolam infusion. Depressive and suicidal symptoms were assessed at baseline and 240 min after infusion. Intracortical facilitation (ICF), short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI), and long-interval intracortical inhibition (LICI), all of which reflect cortical excitability and inhibition functions, were measured at the same time points.

RESULTS: The patients with TRD-SI had lower ICF (p < 0.001) estimates (worse cortical excitatory function) and higher SICI (p = 0.032) and LICI (p < 0.001) estimates (worse cortical inhibitory function) compared with the control group. Higher SICI estimates at baseline were associated with greater baseline suicidal symptoms. No differences were found in the SICI, ICF, and LICI estimates at 240 min after the infusion between the two groups. Low-dose ketamine did not alter the cortical excitation and inhibition functions of the patients with TRD-SI. However, decreased SICI estimates (greater cortical inhibition function) were related to the reduction of suicidal symptoms.

DISCUSSION: Dysfunction of cortical excitation and inhibition may play a crucial role in the pathomechanisms of TRD and suicidal symptoms. However, we found a lack of predictive ability of the baseline cortical excitation and inhibition parameters on the antidepressant and antisuicidal effect of low-dose ketamine infusion.