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Childhood maltreatment (CM) plays an important role in the development of major depressive disorder (MDD). The aim of this study was to examine whether CM severity and type are associated with MDD-related brain alterations, and how they interact with sex and age.
Within the ENIGMA-MDD network, severity and subtypes of CM using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire were assessed and structural magnetic resonance imaging data from patients with MDD and healthy controls were analyzed in a mega-analysis comprising a total of 3872 participants aged between 13 and 89 years. Cortical thickness and surface area were extracted at each site using FreeSurfer.
CM severity was associated with reduced cortical thickness in the banks of the superior temporal sulcus and supramarginal gyrus as well as with reduced surface area of the middle temporal lobe. Participants reporting both childhood neglect and abuse had a lower cortical thickness in the inferior parietal lobe, middle temporal lobe, and precuneus compared to participants not exposed to CM. In males only, regardless of diagnosis, CM severity was associated with higher cortical thickness of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. Finally, a significant interaction between CM and age in predicting thickness was seen across several prefrontal, temporal, and temporo-parietal regions.
Severity and type of CM may impact cortical thickness and surface area. Importantly, CM may influence age-dependent brain maturation, particularly in regions related to the default mode network, perception, and theory of mind.
Childhood maltreatment (CM) may modify the relationship between major depressive disorder (MDD) and hippocampal volume reduction. To disentangle the impact of MDD and CM on hippocampal volume we investigated the association between MDD and hippocampal volume in persons with and without a history of CM in two independent cohorts.
We used data of 262 participants from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) (mean age 37 years, 32% male) and 636 participants from the SMART-Medea study (mean age 61 years, 81% male). In both studies a 12-month diagnosis of MDD and CM were assessed using a diagnostic interview. Hippocampal volume was measured in NESDA using FreeSurfer software on 3-T magnetic resonance (MR) images and in SMART it was manually outlined on 1.5-T MR images. With analysis of covariance adjusted for intracranial volume, age, gender and lifestyle factors we estimated the effects of MDD and CM on hippocampal volume.
In both cohorts CM was not significantly associated with hippocampal volume. After pooling the data MDD was associated with smaller hippocampal volume (B = −138.90 mm3, p = 0.05) and the interaction between MDD and CM reached significance (p = 0.04); in participants with CM, MDD was related to smaller hippocampal volume (NESDA: B = −316.8 mm3, p = 0.02; SMART: B = −407.6, p = 0.046), but not in participants without CM (p > 0.05).
Our study shows that in two independent cohorts, particularly in individuals with CM, a diagnosis of MDD is related to smaller hippocampal volume. Prospective studies are needed to further determine through which mechanism CM may amplify the relationship between MDD and hippocampal volume.
Data from the general population show higher prevalence of different anxiety disorders in women as compared with men. We analysed gender differences in a naturalistic sample of outpatients with anxiety disorders in a mental healthcare setting.
Routine outcome monitoring data were collected from 1333 patients (age: 18–65; 63.3% women) fulfilling Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV criteria of current anxiety disorder according to the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview between 2004 through 2006. Data included Comprehensive Psychopathological Rating Scale, Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), Mood and Anxiety Symptom Questionnaire (MASQ). Chi-squared test and t-test were used to compare women with men for variables with parametric distributions, and Mann–Whitney test for non-parametric distribution. Adjustments for potential confounders (age, level of education, ethnicity and comorbidites) were made by logistic regression models (for discrete variables) or analysis of covariance.
The female-to-male ratio (i.e., 844 women, 489 men) for any anxiety disorder was 1.73 : 1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.63–1.83), with the strongest skewness for post-traumatic stress disorder (2.80 : 1) and the smallest one for social phobia (1.18 : 1). Compared with men, women reported more severe self-rating scores on the BSI (on average, the scores were 12.3% higher on 3 of 9 subscales: somatisation, interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety), SF-36 (self-reported generic health status was lower on 5 of 8 subscales: physical functioning, social functioning, physical problems, vitality and bodily pain) and MASQ (on average, the scores were 6.6% higher on 4 of 5 subscales: anxious arousal, general distress, general distress depression, general distress anxiety). On the contrary, no gender difference was found in the severity of anxiety symptoms measured by the Brief Anxiety Scale. Women were more likely to suffer from comorbid depression and bulimia nervosa, and less likely from substance abuse.
In a treatment-seeking population the prevalence rate of anxiety disorders was 1.7 times higher in female compared with men. Female outpatients were more severely affected on self-rated but not on observer-rated scales.
Depressive disorders are highly prevalent in adolescence and confer a heightened risk of recurrence in adulthood. Insight into the developmental neurocircuitry of depression could advance our understanding of depression and aid the development of effective treatment strategies. Whereas white-matter (WM) abnormalities are strongly implicated in adult depression, we still lack a firm understanding of WM architecture in adolescent depression. Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), we set out to investigate WM microstructure in a sample of clinically depressed adolescents relative to matched controls.
We employed tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to examine WM microstructure in 25 treatment-naive adolescents with clinical depression relative to 21 matched controls. Using TBSS, we examined fractional anisotropy (FA), axial diffusivity (AD), radial diffusivity (RD) and mean diffusivity (MD). Threshold-free cluster enhancement (TFCE) with family-wise error (FWE) correction was used to control for multiple comparisons.
Our analysis revealed abnormal WM microstructure in clinically depressed adolescents. More specifically, whole-brain analysis revealed that patients had lower FA values in the body of the corpus callosum (CC), coupled with elevated RD and MD, and preserved AD. Conversely, region-of-interest analysis revealed that patients had higher FA values in the uncinate fasciculus (UF), coupled with elevated AD, reduced RD and preserved MD.
In line with neurocircuitry models of depression, our findings suggest that WM abnormalities within pathways facilitating cognitive and emotional functioning are involved in the pathophysiology of depression. Importantly, our findings show that these WM abnormalities are already present early in the course of the disorder.
Research into age of onset in obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) has indicated significant differences between patients with early and late onset of the disorder. However, multiple criteria have been used arbitrarily for differentiating between early- and late-onset OCD, rendering inconsistent results that are difficult to interpret.
In the current study, admixture analysis was conducted in a sample of 377 OC patients to determine the number of underlying populations of age of onset and associated demographic and clinical characteristics. Various measures of anxiety, depression, co-morbidity, autism, OCD, tics and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms were administered.
A bimodal age of onset was established and the best-fitting cut-off score between early and late age of onset was 20 years (early age of onset ⩽19 years). Patients with early age of onset were more likely to be single. Early age of onset patients demonstrated higher levels of OCD severity and increased symptoms on all OCD dimensions along with increased ADHD symptoms and higher rates of bipolar disorder.
It is suggested that 20 years is the recommended cut-off age for the determination of early versus late age of onset in OCD. Early age of onset is associated with a generally graver OCD clinical picture and increased ADHD symptoms and bipolar disorder rates, which may be related to greater functional implications of the disorder. We propose that age of onset could be an important marker for the subtyping of OCD.
Childhood emotional maltreatment (CEM) has been associated with disturbances in emotional and behavioral functioning, and with changes in regional brain morphology. However, whether CEM has any effect on the intrinsic organization of the brain is not known. In this study, we investigated the effects of CEM on resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) using seeds in the limbic network, the default-mode network (DMN) and the salience network, and the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC).
Using 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), resting-state functional MRI (RS-fMRI) scans were obtained. We defined seeds in the bilateral amygdala, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the left dmPFC, and used these to examine whether individuals reporting CEM (n=44) differed from individuals reporting no CEM (n=44) in RSFC with other brain regions. The two groups were matched for age, gender, handedness and the presence of psychopathology.
CEM was associated with decreased RSFC between the right amygdala and the bilateral precuneus and a cluster extending from the left insula to the hippocampus and putamen. In addition, CEM was associated with decreased RSFC between the dACC and the precuneus and also frontal regions of the brain.
We found that CEM has a profound effect on RSFC in the limbic network and the salience network. Regions that show aberrant connectivity are related to episodic memory encoding, retrieval and self-processing operations.
A family history (FH) of alcohol dependence (AD) not only increases the risk for AD, but is also associated with an increased risk for mood and anxiety disorders. However, it is unknown how a FH of AD affects neural substrates in patients with mood and anxiety disorders. In this study we examined the effects of an alcoholic FH on cognitive and emotional functions in these patients using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
In a sample of non-alcoholic patients with depressive and/or anxiety disorders from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) neuroimaging study, patients with a first-degree FH of AD (FH + ; n = 31) were compared with patients without a FH (FH–; n = 77) on performance and brain activation during visuospatial planning and emotional word encoding. Results were compared with those of healthy controls (HCs) without a FH of AD (n = 31).
FH+ patients performed slower during planning with increasing task load, coupled with stronger blood oxygen level-dependent responses in dorsal prefrontal areas compared with FH− patients and HCs. FH was not associated with performance differences during word encoding, but right insula activation during positive word encoding was present in FH+ patients, comparable with HCs, but absent in FH− patients.
This study demonstrates subtle impairments during planning in FH+ compared with FH− patients and HCs, whereas activation during mood-incongruent stimuli in FH+ patients was similar to HCs but not FH− patients, suggesting that the presence of a FH of AD is a useful marker for the neurophysiological profile in mood/anxiety disorders and possible predictor for treatment success.
Depression has been associated with limbic hyperactivation and frontal hypoactivation in response to negative facial stimuli. Anxiety disorders have also been associated with increased activation of emotional structures such as the amygdala and insula. This study examined to what extent activation of brain regions involved in perception of emotional faces is specific to depression and anxiety disorders in a large community-based sample of out-patients.
An event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm was used including angry, fearful, sad, happy and neutral facial expressions. One hundred and eighty-two out-patients (59 depressed, 57 anxiety and 66 co-morbid depression-anxiety) and 56 healthy controls selected from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) were included in the present study. Whole-brain analyses were conducted. The temporal profile of amygdala activation was also investigated.
Facial expressions activated the amygdala and fusiform gyrus in depressed patients with or without anxiety and in healthy controls, relative to scrambled faces, but this was less evident in patients with anxiety disorders. The response shape of the amygdala did not differ between groups. Depressed patients showed dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) hyperactivation in response to happy faces compared to healthy controls.
We suggest that stronger frontal activation to happy faces in depressed patients may reflect increased demands on effortful emotion regulation processes triggered by mood-incongruent stimuli. The lack of strong differences in neural activation to negative emotional faces, relative to healthy controls, may be characteristic of the mild-to-moderate severity of illness in this sample and may be indicative of a certain cognitive-emotional processing reserve.
Generalizability of antidepressant efficacy trials (AETs) to daily practice is questioned because of their very stringent patient selection. This study aims to determine eligibility for AETs of out-patients suffering from major depression in a routine out-patient setting and investigates influence of eligibility on treatment outcome.
Data collection (n=1653) was performed through routine outcome monitoring by independent trained research nurses. The Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview Plus and the Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology, short Dutch version were used for diagnostic assessment and personality pathology screening. The Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) was used for assessment of baseline severity and treatment outcome. Eligibility was assessed by stepwise application of commonly used exclusion criteria. Influence of eligibility on treatment outcome was investigated in a subsample of the 1653 patients who had at least one follow-up assessment (n=626). Eligible and non-eligible patients were compared on proportion of response (50% reduction) and remission on MADRS (MADRS⩽10).
Altogether, 17–25% of the patients were eligible for AETs. The most common reasons for exclusion would be ‘not meeting minimum baseline severity’ and ‘presence of co-morbid Axis I disorder’. Eligible and non-eligible patients did not differ in treatment outcome. Only ‘meeting the minimum baseline severity’ is associated with remission.
The majority of ‘real life’ out-patients are not eligible for AETs. However, the influence of eligibility on treatment outcome seems to be small. This suggests that stringent patient selection by eligibility criteria is not the major reason for lack of generalizability of AETs. Exclusion of less severely depressed patients from the analyses resulted in better treatment outcome. Milder depression is highly prevalent in daily practice and more research into treatment effectiveness in milder depression is warranted.
Pre-adult onset of major depressive disorder (MDD) may predict a more severe phenotype of depression. As data from naturalistic psychiatric specialty care settings are scarce, we examined phenotypic differences between pre-adult and adult onset MDD in a large sample of consecutive out-patients.
Altogether, 1552 out-patients, mean age 39.2±11.6 years, were diagnosed with current MDD on the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview Plus diagnostic interview as part of the usual diagnostic procedure. A total of 1105 patients (71.2%) had complete data on all variables of interest. Pre-adult onset of MDD was defined as having experienced the signs and symptoms of a first major depressive episode before the age of 18 years. Patients were stratified according to the age at interview (20–40/40–65 years). Correlates of pre-adult onset were analysed using logistic regression models adjusted for age, age squared and gender.
Univariate analyses showed that pre-adult onset of MDD had a distinct set of demographic (e.g. less frequently living alone) and clinical correlates (more co-morbid DSM-IV – Text Revision diagnoses, more social phobia, more suicidality). In the multivariate model, we found an independent association only for a history of suicide attempts [odds ratio (OR) 3.15, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.97–5.05] and current suicidal thoughts (OR 1.81, 95% CI 1.26–2.60) in patients with pre-adult versus adult onset MDD.
Pre-adult onset of MDD is associated with more suicidality than adult onset MDD. Age of onset of depression is an easy to ascertain characteristic that may help clinicians in weighing suicide risk.
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