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Childhood maltreatment (CM) represents a potent risk factor for major depressive disorder (MDD), including poorer treatment response. Altered resting-state connectivity in the fronto-limbic system has been reported in maltreated individuals. However, previous results in smaller samples differ largely regarding localization and direction of effects.
We included healthy and depressed samples [n = 624 participants with MDD; n = 701 healthy control (HC) participants] that underwent resting-state functional MRI measurements and provided retrospective self-reports of maltreatment using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. A-priori defined regions of interest [ROI; amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)] were used to calculate seed-to-voxel connectivities.
No significant associations between maltreatment and resting-state connectivity of any ROI were found across MDD and HC participants and no interaction effect with diagnosis became significant. Investigating MDD patients only yielded maltreatment-associated increased connectivity between the amygdala and dorsolateral frontal areas [pFDR < 0.001; η2partial = 0.050; 95%-CI (0.023–0.085)]. This effect was robust across various sensitivity analyses and was associated with concurrent and previous symptom severity. Particularly strong amygdala-frontal associations with maltreatment were observed in acutely depressed individuals [n = 264; pFDR < 0.001; η2partial = 0.091; 95%-CI (0.038–0.166)). Weaker evidence – not surviving correction for multiple ROI analyses – was found for altered supracallosal ACC connectivity in HC individuals associated with maltreatment.
The majority of previous resting-state connectivity correlates of CM could not be replicated in this large-scale study. The strongest evidence was found for clinically relevant maltreatment associations with altered adult amygdala-dorsolateral frontal connectivity in depression. Future studies should explore the relevance of this pathway for a maltreated subgroup of MDD patients.
Mood plays an important role in our life which is illustrated by the disruptive impact of aberrant mood states in depression. Although vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been shown to improve symptoms of depression, the exact mechanism is still elusive, and it is an open question whether non-invasive VNS could be used to swiftly and robustly improve mood.
Here, we investigated the effect of left- and right-sided transcutaneous auricular VNS (taVNS) v. a sham control condition on mood after the exertion of physical and cognitive effort in 82 healthy participants (randomized cross-over design) using linear mixed-effects and hierarchical Bayesian analyses of mood ratings.
We found that 90 min of either left-sided or right-sided taVNS improved positive mood [b = 5.11, 95% credible interval, CI (1.39–9.01), 9.6% improvement relative to the mood intercept, BF10 = 7.69, pLME = 0.017], yet only during the post-stimulation phase. Moreover, lower baseline scores of positive mood were associated with greater taVNS-induced improvements in motivation [r = −0.42, 95% CI (−0.58 to −0.21), BF10 = 249].
We conclude that taVNS boosts mood after a prolonged period of effort exertion with concurrent stimulation and that acute motivational effects of taVNS are partly dependent on initial mood states. Collectively, our results show that taVNS may help quickly improve affect after a mood challenge, potentially by modulating interoceptive signals contributing to the reappraisal of effortful behavior. This suggests that taVNS could be a useful add-on to current behavioral therapies.
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