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Ventral striatum functional connectivity predicts adolescent depressive disorder

25 Nov 2017

Aberrant ventral striatum functional connectivity is a specific predictor of future risk for depressive disorder, suggests a recent study, highlighting the need to understand how brain reward networks contribute to youth depression.

The authors used reward network-based functional connectivity at baseline to predict depressive disorder at follow-up in a community sample of adolescents (n=637; aged 6 to 12 years), who underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Discovery and replication analysis tested intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) among nodes of a putative reward network, while logistic regression tested whether striatal node strength, a measure of reward-related iFC, predicted onset of a depressive disorder at 3-year follow-up. The specificity of this prediction was assessed by further analyses.

Increased left ventral striatum node strength was a predictor of elevated risk for future depressive disorder (odds ratio [OR], 1.54; 95 percent CI, 1.09 to 2.18), even after excluding participants with depressive disorders at baseline (OR, 1.52; 1.05 to 2.20). Only the left ventral striatum significantly predicted depression among 11 reward-network nodes.

Striatal node strength failed to predict other common adolescent psychopathology, including anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and substance use.

“Previous studies have implicated aberrant reward processing in the pathogenesis of adolescent depression. However, no study has used functional connectivity within a distributed reward network, assessed using resting-state fMRI, to predict the onset of depression in adolescents,” researchers noted.

In a previous study, Kerester and colleagues found that abnormal activations in ventromedial frontal regions, the anterior cingulate and amygdala characterize major depressive disorder in youths. [Neuroimage Clin 2013;4:209-31]

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