The Effect of Ketamine on Electrophysiological Connectivity in Major Depressive Disorder

Allison C. Nugent*, Elizabeth D. Ballard, Jessica R. Gilbert, Prejaas K. Tewarie, Matthew J. Brookes, Carlos A. Zarate

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is highly prevalent and frequently disabling. Only about 30% of patients respond to a first-line antidepressant treatment, and around 30% of patients are classified as “treatment-resistant” after failing to respond to multiple adequate trials. While most antidepressants target monoaminergic targets, ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist that has shown rapid antidepressant effects when delivered intravenously or intranasally. While there is evidence that ketamine exerts its effects via enhanced α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) throughput, its mechanism for relieving depressive symptoms is largely unknown. This study acquired resting-state magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings after both ketamine and placebo infusions and investigated functional connectivity using a multilayer amplitude-amplitude correlation technique spanning the canonical frequency bands. Twenty-four healthy volunteers (HVs) and 27 unmedicated participants with MDD took part in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of 0.5 mg/kg IV ketamine. Order of infusion was randomized, and participants crossed over to receive the second infusion after two weeks. The results indicated widespread ketamine-induced reductions in connectivity in the alpha and beta bands that did not correlate with magnitude of antidepressant response. In contrast, the magnitude of ketamine's antidepressant effects in MDD participants was associated with cross-frequency connectivity for delta-alpha and delta-gamma bands, with HVs and ketamine non-responders showing connectivity decreases post-ketamine and ketamine responders demonstrating small increases in connectivity. These results may indicate functional subtypes of MDD and also suggest that neural responses to ketamine are fundamentally different between responders and non-responders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number519
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • connectivity
  • depression
  • magnetoencephalography
  • network
  • resting state


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