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Heightened reactivity to unpredictable threat (U-threat) is a core individual difference factor underlying fear-based psychopathology. Little is known, however, about whether reactivity to U-threat is a stable marker of fear-based psychopathology or if it is malleable to treatment. The aim of the current study was to address this question by examining differences in reactivity to U-threat within patients before and after 12-weeks of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Participants included patients with principal fear (n = 22) and distress/misery disorders (n = 29), and a group of healthy controls (n = 21) assessed 12-weeks apart. A well-validated threat-of-shock task was used to probe reactivity to predictable (P-) and U-threat and startle eyeblink magnitude was recorded as an index of defensive responding.
Across both assessments, individuals with fear-based disorders displayed greater startle magnitude to U-threat relative to healthy controls and distress/misery patients (who did not differ). From pre- to post-treatment, startle magnitude during U-threat decreased only within the fear patients who received CBT. Moreover, within fear patients, the magnitude of decline in startle to U-threat correlated with the magnitude of decline in fear symptoms. For the healthy controls, startle to U-threat across the two time points was highly reliable and stable.
Together, these results indicate that startle to U-threat characterizes fear disorder patients and is malleable to treatment with CBT but not SSRIs within fear patients. Startle to U-threat may therefore reflect an objective, psychophysiological indicator of fear disorder status and CBT treatment response.
Recent meta-analyses of resting-state networks in major depressive disorder (MDD) implicate network disruptions underlying cognitive and affective features of illness. Heterogeneity of findings to date may stem from the relative lack of data parsing clinical features of MDD such as phase of illness and the burden of multiple episodes.
Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data were collected from 17 active MDD and 34 remitted MDD patients, and 26 healthy controls (HCs) across two sites. Participants were medication-free and further subdivided into those with single v. multiple episodes to examine disease burden. Seed-based connectivity using the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) seed to probe the default mode network as well as the amygdala and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) seeds to probe the salience network (SN) were conducted.
Young adults with remitted MDD demonstrated hyperconnectivity of the left PCC to the left inferior frontal gyrus and of the left sgACC to the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and left hippocampus compared with HCs. Episode-independent effects were observed between the left PCC and the right dorsolateral PFC, as well as between the left amygdala and right insula and caudate, whereas the burden of multiple episodes was associated with hypoconnectivity of the left PCC to multiple cognitive control regions as well as hypoconnectivity of the amygdala to large portions of the SN.
This is the first study of a homogeneous sample of unmedicated young adults with a history of adolescent-onset MDD illustrating brain-based episodic features of illness.
Although significant changes in both gray and white matter have been noted in late-life depression (LLD), the pathophysiology of implicated white-matter tracts has not been fully described. In this study we examined the integrity of specific white-matter tracts in LLD versus healthy controls (HC).
Participants aged ⩾60 years were recruited from the community. The sample included 23 clinically diagnosed individuals with LLD and 23 HC. White-matter integrity metrics [fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD)] were calculated in the bilateral cingulum and uncinate fasciculus. Depression severity was measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD). Composite scores for learning and memory and executive function were created using standardized neuropsychological assessments.
White-matter integrity was lower in LLD versus HC in the bilateral cingulum and right uncinate fasciculus (p⩽0.05). In the whole sample, depression severity correlated with integrity in the bilateral cingulum and right uncinate fasciculus (p ⩽0.05). In patients, depression severity correlated with the integrity of the left uncinate fasciculus (p = 0.03); this tract also correlated with executive function (p = 0.02). Among HC, tract integrity did not correlate with depression scores; however, learning and memory correlated with integrity of the bilateral uncinate fasciculus and bilateral cingulum; executive function correlated with the right uncinate and left cingulum (p ⩽0.05).
White-matter tract integrity was lower in LLD than in HC and was associated with depression severity across all participants. Tract integrity was associated with cognition in both groups but more robustly among HC.
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