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In PloS one

BACKGROUND AND AIM : Depression is often accompanied by thoughts of self-harm, which are a strong predictor of subsequent suicide attempt and suicide death. Few empirical data are available regarding the temporal correlation between depression symptoms and suicidal ideation. We investigated the anecdotal concern that suicidal ideation may increase during a period of depression improvement.

DATA : Longitudinal Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9 is a questionnaire of 9 multiple-choice questions to assess the frequency of depressive symptoms within the previous two weeks. We analyzed a chronic depression treatment population's electronic health record (EHR) data, containing 610 patients' longitudinal PHQ-9 scores (62% age 45 and older; 68% female) within 40 weeks.

METHODS : The irregular and sparse EHR data were transformed into continuous trajectories using Gaussian process regression. We first estimated the correlations between the symptoms (total score of the first 8 questions; PHQ-8) and suicide ideation (9th question score; Item 9) using the cross-correlation function. We then used an artificial neural network (ANN) to discover subtypes of depression patterns from the fitted depression trajectories. In addition, we conducted a separate analysis using the unfitted raw PHQ scores to examine PHQ-8's and Item 9's pattern changes.

RESULTS : Results showed that the majority of patients' PHQ-8 and Item 9 scores displayed strong temporal correlations. We found five patterns in the PHQ-8 and the Item 9 trajectories. We also found 8% - 13% of the patients have experienced an increase in suicidal ideation during the improvement of their PHQ-8. Using a trajectory-based method for subtype pattern detection in depression progression, we provided a better understanding of temporal correlations between depression symptoms over time.

Gong Jue, Simon Gregory E, Liu Shan