Speeding up new medicines for depression
The Emotional Test Battery
Watch this video to see how the Emotional Test Battery works:
What is the Emotional Test Battery?
Emotional blunting is a side effect of many antidepressants that can adversely affect patient’s day to day lives. The results of this study have had a significant effect on patient benefit as prescribing can be focussed towards patients for whom this is a particular problem.
The value of the ETB has been widely recognised. It has been reported on BBC news and in other media. The Medical Research Council has highlighted the ETB as a particularly successful example of translational research in psychiatry, an area that has proved challenging in recent years.
How do antidepressants work?
Game-changing research by Professor Catherine Harmer and Professor Guy Goodwin in the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry has re-framed our understanding of how antidepressants work. This has provided new ways to rapidly, accurately and cost-effectively predict the likely success of new drugs by looking directly at their measurable effects in healthy volunteers.
How can we speed up better treatments?
- The bias towards negative self-assessment seen in depression could indeed be reversed by antidepressant drugs.
- These behavioural changes were accompanied by changes in brain activity detected using functional brain imaging.
- Changes in emotional bias produced by a single dose of antidepressant in depressed patients are the same as those observed in healthy people.
These results suggested that antidepressants work by altering people’s subconscious emotional processing and that this leads to an improvement in mood. The research also highlighted that it would be possible to predict the effectiveness of drugs after only a short time and that these experiments could be conducted in healthy volunteers. This led Catherine Harmer and Guy Goodwin to develop the Emotional Test Battery (ETB) (above) to investigate these effects of antidepressants. Many subsequent studies have confirmed that these tests can detect subtle but reliable indicators of antidepressant drug action on emotional processing.
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Page last reviewed: 21 September, 2021