Spatiotemporal psychopathology I: No rest for the brain's resting state activity in depression? Spatiotemporal psychopathology of depressive symptoms

J Affect Disord. 2016 Jan 15;190:854-866. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.05.007. Epub 2015 May 14.


Despite intense neurobiological investigation in psychiatric disorders like major depressive disorder (MDD), the basic disturbance that underlies the psychopathological symptoms of MDD remains, nevertheless, unclear. Neuroimaging has focused mainly on the brain's extrinsic activity, specifically task-evoked or stimulus-induced activity, as related to the various sensorimotor, affective, cognitive, and social functions. Recently, the focus has shifted to the brain's intrinsic activity, otherwise known as its resting state activity. While various abnormalities have been observed during this activity, their meaning and significance for depression, along with its various psychopathological symptoms, are yet to be defined. Based on findings in healthy brain resting state activity and its particular spatial and temporal structure - defined in a functional and physiological sense rather than anatomical and structural - I claim that the various depressive symptoms are spatiotemporal disturbances of the resting state activity and its spatiotemporal structure. This is supported by recent findings that link ruminations and increased self-focus in depression to abnormal spatial organization of resting state activity. Analogously, affective and cognitive symptoms like anhedonia, suicidal ideation, and thought disorder can be traced to an increased focus on the past, increased past-focus as basic temporal disturbance o the resting state. Based on these findings, I conclude that the various depressive symptoms must be conceived as spatiotemporal disturbances of the brain's resting state's activity and its spatiotemporal structure. Importantly, this entails a new form of psychopathology, "Spatiotemporal Psychopathology" that directly links the brain and psyche, therefore having major diagnostic and therapeutic implications for clinical practice.

Keywords: Major depressive disorder; Resting state; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Psychopathology
  • Rest / physiology*
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis