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Treatment non-response and recurrence are the main sources of disease burden in major depressive disorder (MDD). However, little is known about its neurobiological mechanism concerning the brain network changes accompanying pharmacotherapy. The present study investigated the changes in the intrinsic brain networks during 6-month antidepressant treatment phase associated with the treatment response and recurrence in MDD.
Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was acquired from untreated patients with MDD and healthy controls at baseline. The patients' depressive symptoms were monitored by using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD). After 6 months of antidepressant treatment, patients were re-scanned and followed up every 6 months over 2 years. Traditional statistical analysis as well as machine learning approaches were conducted to investigate the longitudinal changes in macro-scale resting-state functional network connectivity (rsFNC) strength and micro-scale resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) associated with long-term treatment outcome in MDD.
Repeated measures of the general linear model demonstrated a significant difference in the default mode network (DMN) rsFNC change before and after the 6-month antidepressant treatment between remitters and non-remitters. The difference in the rsFNC change over the 6-month antidepressant treatment between recurring and stable MDD was also specific to DMN. Machine learning analysis results revealed that only the DMN rsFC change successfully distinguished non-remitters from the remitters at 6 months and recurring from stable MDD during the 2-year follow-up.
Our findings demonstrated that the intrinsic DMN connectivity could be a unique and important target for treatment and recurrence prevention in MDD.
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