Background: Depression has been associated with functional alterations in several areas of the cingulate cortex. In this study we have taken a systematic approach to examining how alterations in functional connectivity vary across the functionally diverse subregions of the rostral cingulate cortex. Method Eighteen patients with major depressive disorder, aged 15 to 24 years, were matched with 20 healthy control participants. Using resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI), we systematically investigated the functional connectivity of four subregions of the rostral cingulate cortex. Voxelwise statistical maps of each subregion's connectivity with other brain areas were compared between the patient and control groups.
Results: The depressed participants showed altered patterns of connectivity with ventral cingulate subregions. They showed increased connectivity between subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsomedial frontal cortex, with connectivity strength showing positive correlation with illness severity. Depressed participants also showed increased connectivity between pregenual ACC and left dorsolateral frontal cortex, and decreased connectivity between pregenual ACC and the caudate nucleus bilaterally.
Conclusions: The results reinforce the importance of subgenual ACC for depression, and show a close link between brain regions that support self-related processes and affective visceromotor function. The pregenual ACC also has an important role, with its increased connectivity with dorsolateral frontal cortex suggesting heightened cognitive regulation of affect; and reduced connectivity with the caudate nucleus potentially underlying symptoms such as anhedonia, reduced motivation and psychomotor dysfunction.