Frontostriatal functional connectivity in major depressive disorder

Biol Mood Anxiety Disord. 2011 Dec 8;1(1):11. doi: 10.1186/2045-5380-1-11.


Background: Abnormalities of the striatum and frontal cortex have been reported consistently in studies of neural structure and function in major depressive disorder (MDD). Despite speculation that compromised connectivity between these regions may underlie symptoms of MDD, little work has investigated the integrity of frontostriatal circuits in this disorder.

Methods: Functional magnetic resonance images were acquired from 21 currently depressed and 19 never-disordered women during wakeful rest. Using four predefined striatal regions-of-interest, seed-to-whole brain correlations were computed and compared between groups.

Results: Compared to controls, depressed participants exhibited attenuated functional connectivity between the ventral striatum and both ventromedial prefrontal cortex and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex. Depressed participants also exhibited stronger connectivity between the dorsal caudate and dorsal prefrontal cortex, which was positively correlated with severity of the disorder.

Conclusions: Depressed individuals are characterized by aberrant connectivity in frontostriatal circuits that are posited to support affective and cognitive processing. Further research is required to examine more explicitly the link between patterns of disrupted connectivity and specific symptoms of depression, and the extent to which these patterns precede the onset of depression and normalize with recovery from depressive illness.