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Aberrant brain connectivity during emotional processing, especially within the fronto-limbic pathway, is one of the hallmarks of major depressive disorder (MDD). However, the methodological heterogeneity of previous studies made it difficult to determine the functional and etiological implications of specific alterations in brain connectivity. We previously reported alterations in psychophysiological interaction measures during emotional face processing, distinguishing depressive pathology from at-risk/resilient and healthy states. Here, we extended these findings by effective connectivity analyses in the same sample to establish a refined neural model of emotion processing in depression.
Thirty-seven patients with MDD, 45 first-degree relatives of patients with MDD and 97 healthy controls performed a face-matching task during functional magnetic resonance imaging. We used dynamic causal modeling to estimate task-dependent effective connectivity at the subject level. Parametric empirical Bayes was performed to quantify group differences in effective connectivity.
MDD patients showed decreased effective connectivity from the left amygdala and left lateral prefrontal cortex to the fusiform gyrus compared to relatives and controls, whereas patients and relatives showed decreased connectivity from the right orbitofrontal cortex to the left insula and from the left orbitofrontal cortex to the right fusiform gyrus compared to controls. Relatives showed increased connectivity from the anterior cingulate cortex to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex compared to patients and controls.
Our results suggest that the depressive state alters top-down control of higher visual regions during face processing. Alterations in connectivity within the cognitive control network present potential risk or resilience mechanisms.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic might affect mental health. Data from population-representative panel surveys with multiple waves including pre-COVID data investigating risk and protective factors are still rare.
In a stratified random sample of the German household population (n = 6684), we conducted survey-weighted multiple linear regressions to determine the association of various psychological risk and protective factors assessed between 2015 and 2020 with changes in psychological distress [(PD; measured via Patient Health Questionnaire for Depression and Anxiety (PHQ-4)] from pre-pandemic (average of 2016 and 2019) to peri-pandemic (both 2020 and 2021) time points. Control analyses on PD change between two pre-pandemic time points (2016 and 2019) were conducted. Regularized regressions were computed to inform on which factors were statistically most influential in the multicollinear setting.
PHQ-4 scores in 2020 (M = 2.45) and 2021 (M = 2.21) were elevated compared to 2019 (M = 1.79). Several risk factors (catastrophizing, neuroticism, and asking for instrumental support) and protective factors (perceived stress recovery, positive reappraisal, and optimism) were identified for the peri-pandemic outcomes. Control analyses revealed that in pre-pandemic times, neuroticism and optimism were predominantly related to PD changes. Regularized regression mostly confirmed the results and highlighted perceived stress recovery as most consistent influential protective factor across peri-pandemic outcomes.
We identified several psychological risk and protective factors related to PD outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. A comparison of pre-pandemic data stresses the relevance of longitudinal assessments to potentially reconcile contradictory findings. Implications and suggestions for targeted prevention and intervention programs during highly stressful times such as pandemics are discussed.
Limbic-cortical imbalance is an established model for the neurobiology of major depressive disorder (MDD), but imaging genetics studies have been contradicting regarding potential risk and resilience mechanisms. Here, we re-assessed previously reported limbic-cortical alterations between MDD relatives and controls in combination with a newly acquired sample of MDD patients and controls, to disentangle pathology, risk, and resilience.
We analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging data and negative affectivity (NA) of MDD patients (n = 48), unaffected first-degree relatives of MDD patients (n = 49) and controls (n = 109) who performed a faces matching task. Brain response and task-dependent amygdala functional connectivity (FC) were compared between groups and assessed for associations with NA.
Groups did not differ in task-related brain activation but activation in the superior frontal gyrus (SFG) was inversely correlated with NA in patients and controls. Pathology was associated with task-independent decreases of amygdala FC with regions of the default mode network (DMN) and decreased amygdala FC with the medial frontal gyrus during faces matching, potentially reflecting a task-independent DMN predominance and a limbic-cortical disintegration during faces processing in MDD. Risk was associated with task-independent decreases of amygdala-FC with fronto-parietal regions and reduced faces-associated amygdala-fusiform gyrus FC. Resilience corresponded to task-independent increases in amygdala FC with the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC) and increased FC between amygdala, pgACC, and SFG during faces matching.
Our results encourage a refinement of the limbic-cortical imbalance model of depression. The validity of proposed risk and resilience markers needs to be tested in prospective studies. Further limitations are discussed.
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