Abnormalities in motor activity represent a central feature in major depressive disorder. However, measurement issues are poorly understood, limiting the use of objective measurement of motor activity for diagnostics and treatment monitoring.
To improve measurement issues, especially sensor placement, analytic strategies and diurnal effects, we assessed motor activity in depressed patients at the beginning (MD; n=27) and after anti-depressive treatment (MD-post; n=18) as well as in healthy controls (HC; n=16) using wrist- and chest-worn accelerometers. We performed multiple analyses regarding sensor placements, extracted features, diurnal variation, motion patterns and posture to clarify which parameters are most powerful in distinguishing patients from controls and monitoring treatment effects.
Whereas most feature-placement combinations revealed significant differences between groups, acceleration (wrist) distinguished MD from HC (d=1.39) best. Frequency (vertical axis chest) additionally differentiated groups in a logistic regression model (R2=0.54). Accordingly, both amplitude (d=1.16) and frequen ... mehrcy (d=1.04) showed alterations, indicating reduced and decelerated motor activity. Differences between MD and HC in gestures (d=0.97) and walking (d=1.53) were found by data analysis from the wrist sensor. Comparison of motor activity at the beginning and after MD-treatment largely confirms our findings.
Sample size was small, but sufficient for the given effect sizes. Comparison of depressed in-patients with non-hospitalized controls might have limited motor activity differences between groups.
Measurement of wrist-acceleration can be recommended as a basic technique to capture motor activity in depressed patients as it records whole body movement and gestures. Detailed analyses showed differences in amplitude and frequency denoting that depressed patients walked less and slower.