Exploratory study of association between blood immune markers and cognitive symptom severity in major depressive disorder: stratification by body mass index status

Célia Fourrier, Emma Sampson, Hikaru Hori, K. Oliver Schubert, Scott R. Clark, Natalie T. Mills, Bernhard T. Baune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: A subset of patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) have shown differences relative to healthy controls in blood inflammatory and immune markers. Meanwhile, MDD and comorbid obesity appear to present with distinct biological and symptom characteristics, categorised as “atypical” or “immunometabolic” depression, although the relevant underlying biological mechanisms are still uncertain. Therefore, this exploratory study aimed to better characterise the relationship between peripheral blood immune markers and symptoms of MDD, as well as the extent to which body mass index (BMI) may alter this relationship. Methods: Linear regression analyses were performed between selected baseline characteristics including clinical scales and blood inflammatory markers in participants with MDD (n = 119) enrolled in the PREDDICT randomised controlled trial (RCT), using age, sex and BMI as covariates, and then stratified by BMI status. Specifically, the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) for symptom severity, Clinical Global Impression scale (CGI) for functional impairment, Oxford Depression Questionnaire (ODQ) for emotional blunting, and THINC integrated tool (THINC-it) for cognitive function were considered as clinical measures. Results: There was a significant association between basophil count and THINC-it Codebreaker mean response time (associated with complex attention, perceptual motor, executive function, and learning and memory abilities) in overweight individuals and with THINC-it Trails total response time (associated with executive function ability) in moderately obese individuals, when controlling for age, sex, and years of education. No correlation was found between any tested blood markers and MADRS, CGI or ODQ clinical measures, regardless of BMI. Discussion: Although the present study is exploratory, the results suggest that targeting of the immune system and of metabolic parameters might confer benefits, specifically in patients with high BMI and experiencing cognitive impairment associated with MDD. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR), ACTRN12617000527369p. Registered on 11 April 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-251
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Aug 2020


  • Blood immune markers
  • Body mass index
  • C-reactive protein
  • Cognition
  • Emotional blunting
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obesity
  • Symptom severity
  • White blood cell count

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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