Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by altered emotional and cognitive functioning. We performed a voxel-based whole-brain meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging data on altered emotion and cognition in MDD. Forty peer-reviewed studies in English-language published between 1998 and 2010 were included, which used functional neuroimaging during cognitive-emotional challenge in adult individuals with MDD and healthy controls. All studies reported between-groups differences for whole-brain analyses in standardized neuroanatomical space and were subjected to Activation Likelihood Estimation (ALE) of brain cluster showing altered responsivity in MDD. ALE resulted in thresholded and false discovery rate corrected hypo- and hyperactive brain regions. Against the background of a complex neural activation pattern, studies converged in predominantly hypoactive cluster in the anterior insular and rostral anterior cingulate cortex linked to affectively biased information processing and poor cognitive control. Frontal areas showed not only similar under- but also over-activation during cognitive-emotional challenge. On the subcortical level, we identified activation alterations in the thalamus and striatum which were involved in biased valence processing of emotional stimuli in MDD. These results for active conditions extend findings from ALE meta-analyses of resting state and antidepressant treatment studies and emphasize the key role of the anterior insular and rostral anterior cingulate cortex for altered emotion and cognition in MDD.
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