Flash electroretinography (fERG) has been used to identify anomalies in retinal functioning in several psychiatric disorders. In schizophrenia (SCZ), fERG abnormalities are reliably observed, but findings from studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) have been less consistent. In this study, fERG data were recorded from MDD patients in a current major depressive episode (n = 25), and compared to data from SCZ patients (n = 25) and healthy controls (HC; n = 25), to determine the degree to which fERG anomalies in acute MDD overlap or contrast with those observed in stabilized (though not symptom free) SCZ. The primary variables of interest were a-wave (photoreceptor activity), b-wave (bipolar-Müller cell activity), and photopic negative response (PhNR; ganglion cell activity) amplitudes and implicit times. Across most conditions, there were no significant differences between the MDD and HC groups in a- or b-wave response, but the SCZ group consistently demonstrated reduced amplitudes. Interestingly, MDD patients demonstrated an increase in photopic a-wave implicit time relative to SCZ patients, and a decrease in PhNR implicit time relative to controls. Correlations between BDI-II scores and fERG metrics were not significant for either patient group. Overall, these data indicate that, using an fERG protocol that distinguishes SCZ patients from controls, MDD patients experiencing a current depressive episode closely resemble healthy controls in their fERG responses. Therefore, MDD-related fERG changes may be more subtle than those observed in SCZ and detectable only with larger sample sizes than we employed and/or using a different set of fERG test parameters.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry
- Major depressive disorder