J Psychiatry Neurosci 2013; 38(2):117-128
Danuta M. Lisiecka, MSc; Angella Carballedo, MD; Andrew J. Fagan, PhD; Yolande Ferguson,MD; James Meaney, MD; Thomas Frodl, MD
Lisiecka, Carballedo, Meaney, Frodl — Department of Psychiatry, the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland; Lisiecka, Frodl — Institute of Neuroscience, the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland; Carballedo, Ferguson, Frodl — Adelaide and Meath Hospital incorporating the National Children’s Hospital (AMNCH), Dublin, Ireland; Fagan, Meaney, Frodl — Centre of Advanced Medical Imaging (CAMI), the University of Dublin, Trinity College, St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
Background: Family history of major depressive disorder (MDD) increases individuals’ vulnerability to depression and alters the way depression manifests itself. Emotion processing and attention shifting are functions altered by MDD and family history of the disease; therefore, it is important to recognize the neural correlates of these functions in association with both factors.
Methods: Our study determines neural correlates of emotion processing and attention shifting for healthy individuals and patients with MDD with and without family history of depression. We compared the performance and neural activity in a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment examining emotion processing and attention shifting in all participants.
Results: Our sample included 4 study groups: healthy controls without family history of depression (n = 25), patients with MDD without family history of the disease (n = 20), unaffected healthy first-degree relatives of patients with MDD (n = 21) and patients with MDD with family history of MDD (n = 30). Compared with healthy controls, unaffected first-degree relatives overactivate the somatosensory cortex and the attention controlling areas during both emotion processing and attention shifting. Patients with family history of MDD have stronger neural activation in subcortical areas during shifting attention from negative stimuli. Patients without family history of MDD have less activation in the paralimbic regions and more activation in core limbic areas, especially during emotion processing.
Limitations: The conclusions about the intergroup differences in activation can be drawn only about neural areas engaged in the task.
Conclusion: Unaffected first-degree relatives of patients with MDD overreact to external emotional cues and compensate for the vulnerability with increased involvement of executive control. Patients with a family history of MDD have less executive control over their attentional shifts in the face of negative stimuli. Patients without a family history of MDD process emotional stimuli in a more visceral way than controls.
Submitted Dec. 7, 2011; Revised May 7, 2012; Accepted June 11, 2012.
Acknowledgements: We thank Dr. Romana Kopeckova, Ms. Julie LeBlanc, MA, and Ms. Hazel McCarthy, MSc, for reading and correcting the text from a linguistic point of view. Funding for this study was provided by the Science Foundation Ireland (Grant Number: SFI/07/SK/B1214C Science Foundation Stokes Professorship Grant awarded to T. Frodl). Health Research Board (HRB) Ireland provided funding for magnetic resonance imaging infrastructure at the Centre of Advanced Medical Imaging (CAMI) at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin.
Competing interests: None declared for D.M. Lisiecka, A. Carballedo, A.J. Fagan, Y. Ferguson and J. Meaney; as above for T. Frodl.
Contributors: D.M. Lisiecka, A. Carballedo, J. Meaney and T. Frodl designed the study. D.M. Lisiecka, A. Carballedo, A.J. Fagan, Y. Ferguson and T. Frodl acquired the data. D.M. Lisiecka and T. Frodl analyzed the data. D.M. Lisiecka and T. Frodl wrote the article. All authors reviewed the article and approved its publication.
Correspondence to: T. Frodl, Institute of Neuroscience, The University of Dublin, Trinity College, Lloyd Bldg. 3.59, College Green, Dublin 2,