Functional connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in medication-naive individuals with major depressive disorder

Functional connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in medication-naive individuals with major depressive disorder

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J Psychiatry Neurosci 2013; 38(6): 417-422

Lingtao Kong, MD*; Kaiyuan Chen, MD*; Yanqing Tang, MD, PhD; Feng Wu, MD, PhD; Naomi Driesen, PhD; Fay Womer, MD; Guoguang Fan, MD, PhD; Ling Ren, MD; Wenyan Jiang, MD; Yang Cao, MD; Hilary P. Blumberg, MD; Ke Xu, MD, PhD; Fei Wang, MD, PhD

Kong, Chen, Tang, Wu, Jiang — Department of Psychiatry, The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Shenyang, China; Tang, Fan, Ren, Xu, Wang — Department of Radiology, The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Shenyang, China; Driesen, Blumberg, Wang — Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn., USA; Womer —Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo., USA; Cao— Mental Health Center of Shenyang, Shenyang, Liaoning, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract

Background: Convergent evidence suggests dysfunction within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala, important components of a neural system that subserves emotional processing, in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). Abnormalities in this system in the left hemisphere and during processing of negative emotional stimuli are especially implicated. In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate amygdala–PFC functional connectivity during emotional face processing in medication-naive individuals with MDD.

Methods: Individuals with MDD and healthy controls underwent fMRI scanning while processing 3 types of emotional face stimuli. We compared the strength of functional connectivity from the amygdala between the MDD and control groups.

Results: Our study included 28 individuals with MDD and 30 controls. Decreased amygdala–left rostral PFC (rPFC) functional connectivity was observed in the MDD group compared with controls for the fear condition (p < 0.05, corrected). No significant differences were found in amygdala connectivity to any cerebral regions between the MDD and control groups for the happy or neutral conditions. Limitations: All participants with MDD were experiencing acute episodes, therefore the findings could not be generalized to the entire MDD population.

Conclusion: Medication-naive individuals with MDD showed decreased amygdala–left rPFC functional connectivity in response to negative emotional stimuli, suggesting that abnormalities in amygdala–left rPFC neural circuitry responses to negative emotional stimuli might play an important role in the pathophysiology of MDD.


Submitted June 16, 2012; Revised Nov. 24, 2012, Jan. 31, Feb. 8, 2013; Accepted Mar. 4, 2013.

Acknowledgments: Funding for this study was provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81101012, F. Wu; 81071099 and 81271499, Y. Tang), the Liaoning Doctor Scientific Foundation (20111099, F. Wu), the Liaoning Science and Technology Foundation (2008225010-14, Y. Tang), National Institute of Health (K01MH086621, F. Wang), the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (F. Wang) and the Klingenstein Foundation (F. Wang).

Competing interests: Y. Tang declares grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81071099) and the Liaoning Sciecne and Technology Foundation (2008225010-14). F. Wu declares grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81101012) and the Liaoning Doctor Scientific Foundation (20111099). F. Wang declares grants from the National Institutes of Health (01MH086621), the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and the Klingenstein Foundation. No other competing interests declared.

Contributors: Y. Tang, G. Fan, H.P. Blumberg, K. Xu and F. Wang designed the study. L. Kong, K. Chen, F. Wu, G. Fan, L. Ren, W. Jiang and Y. Cao acquired the data, which L. Kong, N. Driesen, F. Womer, W. Jiang, and F. Wang analyzed. L. Kong, K. Chen, Y. Tang, N. Driesen, F. Womer, H.P. Blumberg, K. Xu and F. Wang wrote the article. All authors reviewed the article and provided approval for publication.

DOI: 10.1503/jpn.120117

Correspondence to: K. Xu, Department of Radiology, The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, 155 Nanjing North St., Shenyang 110001, Liaoning, China; kexu@vip.sina.com or F. Wang, Department of Radiology, The first Affiliated hospital, China Medical University, 155 Nanjing North St., Shenyang 110001, Liaoning, China and Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven CT 06511, USA; fei.wang@yale.edu