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As a neuroprogressive illness, depression is accompanied by brain structural abnormality that extends to many brain regions. However, the progressive structural alteration pattern remains unknown.
To elaborate the progressive structural alteration of depression according to illness duration, we recruited 195 never-treated first-episode patients with depression and 130 healthy controls (HCs) undergoing T1-weighted MRI scans. Voxel-based morphometry method was adopted to measure gray matter volume (GMV) for each participant. Patients were first divided into three stages according to the length of illness duration, then we explored stage-specific GMV alterations and the causal effect relationship between them using causal structural covariance network (CaSCN) analysis.
Overall, patients with depression presented stage-specific GMV alterations compared with HCs. Regions including the hippocampus, the thalamus and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) presented GMV alteration at onset of illness. Then as the illness advanced, others regions began to present GMV alterations. These results suggested that GMV alteration originated from the hippocampus, the thalamus and vmPFC then expanded to other brain regions. The results of CaSCN analysis revealed that the hippocampus and the vmPFC corporately exerted causal effect on regions such as nucleus accumbens, the precuneus and the cerebellum. In addition, GMV alteration in the hippocampus was also potentially causally related to that in the dorsolateral frontal gyrus.
Consistent with the neuroprogressive hypothesis, our results reveal progressive morphological alteration originating from the vmPFC and the hippocampus and further elucidate possible details about disease progression of depression.
We hypothesize that the tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) may play a role in disturbing the effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) on the striatal connectivity in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).
We performed a longitudinal observation by combining resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) and biochemical analyses to identify the abnormal striatal connectivity in MDD patients, and to evaluate the effect of TNF-α level on these abnormal connectivities during SSRI treatment. Eighty-five rs-fMRI scans were collected from 25 MDD patients and 35 healthy controls, and the scans were repeated for all the patients before and after a 6-week SSRI treatment. Whole-brain voxel-wise functional connectivity (FC) was calculated by correlating the rs-fMRI time courses between each voxel and the striatal seeds (i.e. spherical regions placed at the striatums). The level of TNF-α in serum was evaluated by Milliplex assay. Factorial analysis was performed to assess the interaction effects of ‘TNF-α × treatment’ in the regions with between-group FC difference.
Compared with controls, MDD patients showed significantly higher striatal FC in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and bilateral middle/superior temporal cortices before SSRI treatment (p < 0.001, uncorrected). Moreover, a significant interaction effect of ‘TNF-α × treatment’ was found in MPFC-striatum FC in MDD patients (p = 0.002), and the significance remained after adjusted for age, gender, head motion, and episode of disease.
These findings provide evidence that treatment-related brain connectivity change is dependent on the TNF-α level in MDD patients, and the MPFC-striatum connectivities possibly serve as an important target in the brain.
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