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There is growing evidence that gray matter atrophy is constrained by normal brain network (or connectome) architecture in neuropsychiatric disorders. However, whether this finding holds true in individuals with depression remains unknown. In this study, we aimed to investigate the association between gray matter atrophy and normal connectome architecture at individual level in depression.
In this study, 297 patients with depression and 256 healthy controls (HCs) from two independent Chinese dataset were included: a discovery dataset (105 never-treated first-episode patients and matched 130 HCs) and a replication dataset (106 patients and matched 126 HCs). For each patient, individualized regional atrophy was assessed using normative model and brain regions whose structural connectome profiles in HCs most resembled the atrophy patterns were identified as putative epicenters using a backfoward stepwise regression analysis.
In general, the structural connectome architecture of the identified disease epicenters significantly explained 44% (±16%) variance of gray matter atrophy. While patients with depression demonstrated tremendous interindividual variations in the number and distribution of disease epicenters, several disease epicenters with higher participation coefficient than randomly selected regions, including the hippocampus, thalamus, and medial frontal gyrus were significantly shared by depression. Other brain regions with strong structural connections to the disease epicenters exhibited greater vulnerability. In addition, the association between connectome and gray matter atrophy uncovered two distinct subgroups with different ages of onset.
These results suggest that gray matter atrophy is constrained by structural brain connectome and elucidate the possible pathological progression in depression.
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