A computational network control theory analysis of depression symptoms

Personal Neurosci. 2018 Aug 10;1:e16. doi: 10.1017/pen.2018.15. Epub 2018 Oct 15.


Rumination and impaired inhibition are considered core characteristics of depression. However, the neurocognitive mechanisms that contribute to these atypical cognitive processes remain unclear. To address this question, we apply a computational network control theory (NCT) approach to structural brain imaging data acquired via diffusion tensor imaging in a large sample of participants, to examine how NCT relates to individual differences in subclinical depression. Recent application of this theory at the neural level is built on a model of brain dynamics, which mathematically models patterns of inter-region activity propagated along the structure of an underlying network. The strength of this approach is its ability to characterize the potential role of each brain region in regulating whole-brain network function based on its anatomical fingerprint and a simplified model of node dynamics. We find that subclinical depression is negatively related to higher integration abilities in the right anterior insula, replicating and extending previous studies implicating atypical switching between the default mode and executive control networks in depression. We also find that subclinical depression is related to the ability to "drive" the brain system into easy to reach neural states in several brain regions, including the bilateral lingual gyrus and lateral occipital gyrus. These findings highlight brain regions less known in their role in depression, and clarify their roles in driving the brain into different neural states related to depression symptoms.

Keywords: depression; insula; network control theory.