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Aberrant activity of the subcallosal cingulate (SCC) is a common theme across pharmacologic treatment efficacy prediction studies. The functioning of the SCC in psychotherapeutic interventions is relatively understudied, as are functional differences among SCC subdivisions. We conducted functional connectivity analyses (rsFC) on resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, collected before and after a course of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), using seeds from three SCC subdivisions.
Resting-state data were collected from unmedicated patients with current MDD (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale-17 > 16) before and after 14-sessions of CBT monotherapy. Treatment outcome was assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Rostral anterior cingulate (rACC), anterior subcallosal cingulate (aSCC), and Brodmann’s area 25 (BA25) masks were used as seeds in connectivity analyses that assessed baseline rsFC and symptom severity, changes in connectivity related to symptom improvement after CBT, and prediction of treatment outcomes using whole-brain baseline connectivity.
Pretreatment BDI negatively correlated with pretreatment rACC ~ dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and aSCC ~ lateral prefrontal cortex rsFC. In a region-of-interest longitudinal analysis, rsFC between these regions increased post-treatment (p < 0.05FDR). In whole-brain analyses, BA25 ~ paracentral lobule and rACC ~ paracentral lobule connectivities decreased post-treatment. Whole-brain baseline rsFC with SCC did not predict clinical improvement.
rsFC features of rACC and aSCC, but not BA25, correlated inversely with baseline depression severity, and increased following CBT. Subdivisions of SCC involved in top-down emotion regulation may be more involved in cognitive interventions, while BA25 may be more informative for interventions targeting bottom-up processing. Results emphasize the importance of subdividing the SCC in connectivity analyses.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for many patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), but predictors of treatment outcome are lacking, and little is known about its neural mechanisms. We recently identified longitudinal changes in neural correlates of conscious emotion regulation that scaled with clinical responses to CBT for MDD, using a negative autobiographical memory-based task.
We now examine the neural correlates of emotional reactivity and emotion regulation during viewing of emotionally salient images as predictors of treatment outcome with CBT for MDD, and the relationship between longitudinal change in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) responses and clinical outcomes. Thirty-two participants with current MDD underwent baseline MRI scanning followed by 14 sessions of CBT. The fMRI task measured emotional reactivity and emotion regulation on separate trials using standardized images from the International Affective Pictures System. Twenty-one participants completed post-treatment scanning. Last observation carried forward was used to estimate clinical outcome for non-completers.
Pre-treatment emotional reactivity Blood Oxygen Level-Dependent (BOLD) signal within hippocampus including CA1 predicted worse treatment outcome. In contrast, better treatment outcome was associated with increased down-regulation of BOLD activity during emotion regulation from time 1 to time 2 in precuneus, occipital cortex, and middle frontal gyrus.
CBT may modulate the neural circuitry of emotion regulation. The neural correlates of emotional reactivity may be more strongly predictive of CBT outcome. The finding that treatment outcome was predicted by BOLD signal in CA1 may suggest overgeneralized memory as a negative prognostic factor in CBT outcome.
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