Reduced haemodynamic response in the frontotemporal cortices of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) has been demonstrated using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Most notably, changes in cortical oxy-haemoglobin during a Japanese phonetic fluency task can differentiate psychiatric patients from healthy controls (HC). However, this paradigm has not been validated in the English language. Therefore, the present work aimed to distinguish patients with MDD from HCs, using haemodynamic response measured during an English letter fluency task. One hundred and five HCs and 105 patients with MDD took part in this study. NIRS signals during the verbal fluency task (VFT) was acquired using a 52-channel system, and changes in oxy-haemoglobin in the frontal and temporal regions were quantified. Depression severity, psychosocial functioning, pharmacotherapy and psychiatric history were noted. Patients with MDD had smaller changes in oxy-haemoglobin in the frontal and temporal cortices than HCs. In both regions of interest, oxy-haemoglobin was not associated with any of the clinical variables studied. 75.2% and 76.5% of patients with MDD were correctly classified using frontal and temporal region oxy-haemoglobin, respectively. Haemodynamic response measured by fNIRS during an English letter fluency task is a promising biomarker for MDD.
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