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Reduced contrast sensitivity, pattern electroretinogram ratio, and diminished a-wave amplitude in patients with major depressive disorder.

The electroretinogram (ERG), a non-invasive electrophysiological tool used in ophthalmology, is increasingly applied to investigate neural correlates of depression. The present study aimed to reconsider previous findings in major depressive disorder (MDD) reporting (1) a diminished contrast sensitivity and (2) a reduced patten ERG (PERG) amplitude ratio, and additionally, to assess (3) the photopic negative response (PhNR) from the flash ERG (fERG), with the RETeval® device, a more practical option for clinical routine use. We examined 30 patients with a MDD and 42 healthy controls (HC), assessing individual contrast sensitivity thresholds with an optotype-based contrast test. Moreover, we compared the PERG ratio, an established method for early glaucoma detection, between both groups. The handheld ERG device was used to measure amplitudes and peak times of the fERG components including a-wave, b-wave and PhNR in both MDD patients and HCs. MDD patients exhibited diminished contrast sensitivity together with a reduced PERG ratio, compared to HC. With the handheld ERG device, we found reduced a-wave amplitudes in MDD, whereas no significant differences were observed in the fERG b-wave or PhNR between patients and controls. The reduced contrast sensitivity and PERG ratio in MDD patients supports the hypothesis that depression is associated with altered visual processing. The findings underscore the PERG's potential as a possible objective marker for depression. The reduced a-wave amplitude recorded with the RETeval® system in MDD patients might open new avenues for using handheld ERG devices as simplified approaches for advancing depression research compared to the PERG.

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