Battling Depression: Research Highlights

July 2014

Globally, according to the World Health Organization, depression affects upwards of 350 million people, fewer than half of whom (and, in some countries, fewer than 10%) actually receive treatment. As a research topic, depression is vast and complex, comprising aspects of behavior, neurology, genetics, pharmacology, and other areas.

Last year marked 25 years since the introduction of the antidepressant drug Prozac. To highlight the progression and the current state of antidepressant compounds in development, the following infographic draws upon Derwent World Patents Index, Thomson Reuters Cortellis for Competitive Intelligence, and other Thomson Reuters resources.


To glean a few highlights from research into depression over the last decade, we also turn to Thomson Reuters Web of Science and its store of publication and citation data reflecting the contents of more than 12,000 scientific and scholarly journals, along with conference proceedings and book contents.

A broad Web of Science search for pertinent articles explicitly mentioning permutations of “depression” among their title- and keywords produced some 210,000 papers published since 2004. Ten of the most-cited papers are listed below.

Highly Cited Papers on Depression,

(Listed by citations)

Rank Paper Citations
1 H.S. Mayberg, et al., “Deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression,” Neuron, 45(5): 651-60, 2005. [U. Toronto, Canada] 1,056
2 R.S. Duman, L.M. Monteggia, “A neurotrophic model for stress-related mood disorders,” Biological Psychiatry, 59(12): 1116-27, 2006. [Yale U., New Haven, CT; U Texas SW Med. Ctr., Dallas] 1,032
3 R. Dantzer, et al., “From inflammation to sickness and depression: When the immune system subjugates the brain,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(1): 46-57, 2008. [U. Illinois, Urbana] 985
4 M.H. Trivedi, et al., “Evaluation of outcomes with citalopram for depression using measurement-based care in STAR*D,” American J. Psychiatry, 163(1): 28-40, 2006. [U. Texas SW Med. Ctr., Dallas; U. Pittsburgh, PA; U. Mississippi, Jackson; U. Calif., San Diego; Columbia U, New York, NY] 977
5 L. Pezawas, et al., “5-HTTLPR polymorphism impacts human cingulate-amygdala interaction: a genetic susceptibility,” Nature Neuroscience, 8(6): 828-34, 2005. [NIMH, NIH, Bethesda, MD; U. Pittsburgh, PA] 930
6 A.J. Rush, et al., “Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D report,” American J. Psychiatry, 163(11): 1905-17, 2006. [8 US institutions] 804
7 J. March, et al. (TADS Team), “Fluoxetine, cognitive-based therapy, and their combination for adolescents with depression – Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) randomized controlled trial,” JAMA, 292(7): 807-20, 2004. [Duke U., Durham, NC; NIMH, Rockville, MD] 687
8 I. Kirsch, et al., “Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration,” PLOS Medicine, 5(2): 260-8, 2008. [U. Hull, UK; U. Wyoming, Laramie; U. Connecticut, Storrs; U. Windsor, Canada; Inst. Safe Medicat. Practices, Huntingdon Valley, PA] 672
9 C.L. Raison, L. Capuron, A.H. Miller, “Cytokines sing the blues: Inflammation and the pathogenesis of depression,” Trends in Immunology, 27(1): 24-31, 2006. [Emory U., Atlanta, GA] 660
10 C.A. Zarate, et al., “A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression,” Archives of General Psychiatry, 63(8): 856-64, 2006. [NIMH, NIH, Bethesda, MD; Dept. Health Human Serv., Bethesda] 654
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science

The papers present a range of approaches to treatment, including, in the most-cited paper, deep-brain stimulation. Other studies examine various drug compounds and explore the link between inflammation, illness, and depression. Two papers present data from the STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) study. This initiative, funded by the US National Institute of Mental Health, sought to investigate which treatments, and in which order, were most effective in helping patients whose initial therapy had not produced a satisfactory benefit.   

The table below lists authors who, from the 2004-2014 Web of Science selection on depression research, contributed to the highest number of reports.

Prolific Researchers on Depression,

(Listed by number of papers in Web of Science selection on depression)

Maurizio Fava
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA USA
Eduard Vieta
University of Barcelona, Spain
Michael E. Thase
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA USA
J. John Mann
Columbia University, New York, NY USA
Hans-Jürgen Möller
University of Munich, Germany
A. John Rush
Duke-NUS, Singapore
Michael Berk
University of Melbourne, Australia
Siegfried Kasper
Medical University of Vienna, Austria
Florian Holsboer
Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany
Madhukar H. Trivedi
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX USA
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science

Topping the list is Maurizio Fava of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who coauthored more than 400 of the collected papers. Eduard Vieta of the University of Barcelona contributed to more than 300 reports, with the remaining authors all exceeding 250. Authors based in Europe and the US predominate, with only one researcher situated in Asia: A. John Rush of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (as the name implies, a collaborative institution between Duke University and the National University of Singapore).   

And last, below, those institutions whose researchers were notably prolific in depression research.

Prolific Institutions in Depression Research,

(Listed by number of papers in the Web of Science selection on depression)

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA
University of Pittsburgh, PA USA
Columbia University, New York, NY USA
University of California, Los Angeles, CA USA
University of Toronto, Canada
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI USA
University of Washington, Seattle, WA USA
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA USA
Yale University, New Haven, CT USA
Duke University, Durham, NC USA
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science

This output measure, of course, favors large, research-intensive universities, so the appearance of Harvard University atop the list is not particularly surprising, but the university’s total of nearly 5,000 papers expressly related to depression is notable, exceeding the next-placed University of Pittsburgh by some 1,500 papers. The list consists entirely of North American institutions, with only the University of Toronto and its nearly 3,000 reports preventing an all-US lineup. Meanwhile, King’s College London, UK, (roughly 2,300 reports) and the University of Melbourne, Australia (approximately 1,900) wound up just outside the top ten for this sample of papers.

The data and citation records included in this report are from Thomson Reuters Web of ScienceTM. Web of ScienceTM is a registered trademark of Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.