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Altered white matter brain connectivity has been linked to depression. The aim of this study was to investigate the association of markers of white matter connectivity with prevalence, incidence and course of depressive symptoms.
Markers of white matter connectivity (node degree, clustering coefficient, local efficiency, characteristic path length, and global efficiency) were assessed at baseline by 3 T MRI in the population-based Maastricht Study (n = 4866; mean ± standard deviation age 59.6 ± 8.5 years, 49.0% women; 17 406 person-years of follow-up). Depressive symptoms (9-item Patient Health Questionnaire; PHQ-9) were assessed at baseline and annually over seven years of follow-up. Major depressive disorder (MDD) was assessed with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview at baseline only. We used negative binominal, logistic and Cox regression analyses, and adjusted for demographic, cardiovascular, and lifestyle risk factors.
A lower global average node degree at baseline was associated with the prevalence and persistence of clinically relevant depressive symptoms [PHQ-9 ⩾ 10; OR (95% confidence interval) per standard deviation = 1.21 (1.05–1.39) and OR = 1.21 (1.02–1.44), respectively], after full adjustment. On the contrary, no associations were found of global average node degree with the MDD at baseline [OR 1.12 (0.94–1.32) nor incidence or remission of clinically relevant depressive symptoms [HR = 1.05 (0.95–1.17) and OR 1.08 (0.83–1.41), respectively]. Other connectivity measures of white matter organization were not associated with depression.
Our findings suggest that fewer white matter connections may contribute to prevalent depressive symptoms and its persistence but not to incident depression. Future studies are needed to replicate our findings.
Individuals with depression often experience widespread and persistent cognitive deficits, which might be due to brain atrophy and cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD). We therefore studied the associations between depression, markers of brain atrophy and CSVD, and cognitive functioning.
We used cross-sectional data from the population-based Maastricht study (n = 4734; mean age 59.1 ± 8.6 years, 50.2% women), which focuses on type 2 diabetes. A current episode of major depressive disorder (MDD, n = 151) was assessed by the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Volumes of cerebral spinal fluid, white matter, gray matter and white matter hyperintensities, presence of lacunar infarcts and cerebral microbleeds, and total CSVD burden were assessed by 3 T magnetic resonance imaging. Multiple linear and logistic regression analyses tested the associations between MDD, brain markers and cognitive functioning in memory, information processing speed, and executive functioning & attention, and presence of cognitive impairment. Structural equation modeling was used to test mediation.
In fully adjusted models, MDD was associated with lower scores in information processing speed [mean difference = −0.18(−0.28;−0.08)], executive functioning & attention [mean difference = −0.13(−0.25;−0.02)], and with higher odds of cognitive impairment [odds ratio (OR) = 1.60(1.06;2.40)]. MDD was associated with CSVD in participants without type 2 diabetes [OR = 1.65(1.06;2.56)], but CSVD or other markers of brain atrophy or CSVD did not mediate the association with cognitive functioning.
MDD is associated with more impaired information processing speed and executive functioning & attention, and overall cognitive impairment. Furthermore, MDD was associated with CSVD in participants without type 2 diabetes, but this association did not explain an impaired cognitive profile.
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