Recently, both increases and decreases in resting-state functional connectivity have been found in major depression. However, these studies only assessed functional connectivity within a specific network or between a few regions of interest, while comorbidity and use of medication was not always controlled for. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to investigate whole-brain functional connectivity, unbiased by a priori definition of regions or networks of interest, in medication-free depressive patients without comorbidity. We analyzed resting-state fMRI data of 19 medication-free patients with a recent diagnosis of major depression (within 6 months before inclusion) and no comorbidity, and 19 age- and gender-matched controls. Independent component analysis was employed on the concatenated data sets of all participants. Thirteen functionally relevant networks were identified, describing the entire study sample. Next, individual representations of the networks were created using a dual regression method. Statistical inference was subsequently done on these spatial maps using voxel-wise permutation tests. Abnormal functional connectivity was found within three resting-state networks in depression: (1) decreased bilateral amygdala and left anterior insula connectivity in an affective network, (2) reduced connectivity of the left frontal pole in a network associated with attention and working memory, and (3) decreased bilateral lingual gyrus connectivity within ventromedial visual regions. None of these effects were associated with symptom severity or gray matter density. We found abnormal resting-state functional connectivity not previously associated with major depression, which might relate to abnormal affect regulation and mild cognitive deficits, both associated with the symptomatology of the disorder.
Keywords: amygdala; functional connectivity; independent component analysis; major depression; resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging.