Revisiting default mode network function in major depression: evidence for disrupted subsystem connectivity

Psychol Med. 2014 Jul;44(10):2041-51. doi: 10.1017/S0033291713002596. Epub 2013 Oct 31.


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by alterations in brain function that are identifiable also during the brain's 'resting state'. One functional network that is disrupted in this disorder is the default mode network (DMN), a set of large-scale connected brain regions that oscillate with low-frequency fluctuations and are more active during rest relative to a goal-directed task. Recent studies support the idea that the DMN is not a unitary system, but rather is composed of smaller and distinct functional subsystems that interact with each other. The functional relevance of these subsystems in depression, however, is unclear.

Method: Here, we investigated the functional connectivity of distinct DMN subsystems and their interplay in depression using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: We show that patients with MDD exhibit increased within-network connectivity in posterior, ventral and core DMN subsystems along with reduced interplay from the anterior to the ventral DMN subsystems.

Conclusions: These data suggest that MDD is characterized by alterations of subsystems within the DMN as well as of their interactions. Our findings highlight a critical role of DMN circuitry in the pathophysiology of MDD, thus suggesting these subsystems as potential therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*