Background: This study examined functioning of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis, a neurobiological stress system centrally implicated in depression, as a predictor of treatment response to Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depressed Adolescents (IPT-A; Mufson et al., 2004. Interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed adolescents. (second ed.). New York, Guilford Press). Methods: The sample consisted of fifteen depressed adolescents (age 12-17; mean age = 15.2; 86.7% female) experiencing high levels of conflict with their parents who were recruited to participate in a pilot study of individual IPT-A and IPT-A delivered with greater and more structured involvement of parents. Adolescents came primarily from low-income Latino (93.3%) families. Prior to treatment, adolescents participated in a 15 min conflict negotiation task with their parents in which salivary cortisol was collected prior to and 10, 20, and 30 min post-conflict. Adolescents' depression symptoms were assessed pre-treatment and post-treatment (week 16) using the Children's Depression Rating Scale (CDRS-R). Results: Higher levels of cortisol 30 min after the conflict task were associated with greater improvement in depression symptoms with IPT-A, controlling for baseline levels of depression. Limitations: The study has a small sample size. Conclusions: This is the first study to examine HPA functioning as a predictor of depressed adolescents' response to a psychotherapeutic intervention. If replicated with larger samples, these results have important implications for advancing the use of neurobiological markers to personalize psychotherapeutic interventions for depressed adolescents.
- Depressive disorder
- Treatment outcome