One of the most effective interventions for intractable major depressive episodes is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Because ECT is also relatively fast-acting, longitudinal study of its neurobiological effects offers critical insight into the mechanisms underlying depression and antidepressant response. Here we assessed modulation of intrinsic brain activity in corticolimbic networks associated with ECT and clinical response.
Ketamine elicits an acute antidepressant effect in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Here, we used diffusion imaging to explore whether regional differences in white matter microstructure prior to treatment may predict clinical response 24h following ketamine infusion in 10 MDD patients.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with dysfunctional corticolimbic networks, making functional connectivity studies integral for understanding the mechanisms underlying MDD pathophysiology and treatment. Resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) studies analyze patterns of temporally coherent intrinsic brain activity in "resting-state networks" (RSNs). The default-mode network (DMN) has been of particular interest to depression research; however, a single RSN is unlikely to capture MDD pathophysiology in its entirety, and the DMN itself can be characterized by multiple RSNs. This, coupled with conflicting previous results, underscores the need for further research. Here, we measured RSFC in MDD by targeting RSNs overlapping with corticolimbic regions and further determined whether altered patterns of RSFC were restored with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). MDD patients exhibited hyperconnectivity between ventral striatum (VS) and the ventral default-mode network (vDMN), while simultaneously demonstrating hypoconnectivity with the anterior DMN (aDMN). ECT influenced this pattern: VS-vDMN hyperconnectivity was significantly reduced while VS-aDMN hypoconnectivity only modestly improved. RSFC between the salience RSN and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex was also reduced in MDD, but was not affected by ECT. Taken together, our results support a model of ventral/dorsal imbalance in MDD and further suggest that the VS is a key structure contributing to this desynchronization.
Whether plasticity of white matter (WM) microstructure relates to therapeutic response in major depressive disorder (MDD) remains uncertain. We examined diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) correlates of WM structural connectivity in patients receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a rapidly acting treatment for severe MDD. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) applied to DTI data (61 directions, 2.5 mm(3) voxel size) targeted voxel-level changes in fractional anisotropy (FA), and radial (RD), axial (AD) and mean diffusivity (MD) in major WM pathways in MDD patients (n=20, mean age: 41.15 years, 10.32 s.d.) scanned before ECT, after their second ECT and at transition to maintenance therapy. Comparisons made at baseline with demographically similar controls (n=28, mean age: 39.42 years, 12.20 s.d.) established effects of diagnosis. Controls were imaged twice to estimate scanning-related variance. Patients showed significant increases of FA in dorsal fronto-limbic circuits encompassing the anterior cingulum, forceps minor and left superior longitudinal fasciculus between baseline and transition to maintenance therapy (P<0.05, corrected). Decreases in RD and MD were observed in overlapping regions and the anterior thalamic radiation (P<0.05, corrected). Changes in DTI metrics associated with therapeutic response in tracts showing significant ECT effects differed between patients and controls. All measures remained stable across time in controls. Altered WM microstructure in pathways connecting frontal and limbic areas occur in MDD, are modulated by ECT and relate to therapeutic response. Increased FA together with decreased MD and RD, which trend towards normative values with treatment, suggest increased fiber integrity in dorsal fronto-limbic pathways involved in mood regulation.