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Studies investigating the link between depressive symptoms and inflammation have yielded inconsistent results, which may be due to two factors. First, studies differed regarding the specific inflammatory markers studied and covariates accounted for. Second, specific depressive symptoms may be differentially related to inflammation. We address both challenges using network psychometrics.
We estimated seven regularized Mixed Graphical Models in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) data (N = 2321) to explore shared variances among (1) depression severity, modeled via depression sum-score, nine DSM-5 symptoms, or 28 individual depressive symptoms; (2) inflammatory markers C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α); (3) before and after adjusting for sex, age, body mass index (BMI), exercise, smoking, alcohol, and chronic diseases.
The depression sum-score was related to both IL-6 and CRP before, and only to IL-6 after covariate adjustment. When modeling the DSM-5 symptoms and CRP in a conceptual replication of Jokela et al., CRP was associated with ‘sleep problems’, ‘energy level’, and ‘weight/appetite changes’; only the first two links survived covariate adjustment. In a conservative model with all 38 variables, symptoms and markers were unrelated. Following recent psychometric work, we re-estimated the full model without regularization: the depressive symptoms ‘insomnia’, ‘hypersomnia’, and ‘aches and pain’ showed unique positive relations to all inflammatory markers.
We found evidence for differential relations between markers, depressive symptoms, and covariates. Associations between symptoms and markers were attenuated after covariate adjustment; BMI and sex consistently showed strong relations with inflammatory markers.
Network analyses on psychopathological data focus on the network structure and its derivatives such as node centrality. One conclusion one can draw from centrality measures is that the node with the highest centrality is likely to be the node that is determined most by its neighboring nodes. However, centrality is a relative measure: knowing that a node is highly central gives no information about the extent to which it is determined by its neighbors. Here we provide an absolute measure of determination (or controllability) of a node – its predictability. We introduce predictability, estimate the predictability of all nodes in 18 prior empirical network papers on psychopathology, and statistically relate it to centrality.
We carried out a literature review and collected 25 datasets from 18 published papers in the field (several mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, psychosis, autism, and transdiagnostic data). We fit state-of-the-art network models to all datasets, and computed the predictability of all nodes.
Predictability was unrelated to sample size, moderately high in most symptom networks, and differed considerable both within and between datasets. Predictability was higher in community than clinical samples, highest for mood and anxiety disorders, and lowest for psychosis.
Predictability is an important additional characterization of symptom networks because it gives an absolute measure of the controllability of each node. It allows conclusions about how self-determined a symptom network is, and may help to inform intervention strategies. Limitations of predictability along with future directions are discussed.
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