Reduced default mode network functional connectivity in patients with recurrent major depressive disorder

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Apr 30;116(18):9078-9083. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1900390116. Epub 2019 Apr 12.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is common and disabling, but its neuropathophysiology remains unclear. Most studies of functional brain networks in MDD have had limited statistical power and data analysis approaches have varied widely. The REST-meta-MDD Project of resting-state fMRI (R-fMRI) addresses these issues. Twenty-five research groups in China established the REST-meta-MDD Consortium by contributing R-fMRI data from 1,300 patients with MDD and 1,128 normal controls (NCs). Data were preprocessed locally with a standardized protocol before aggregated group analyses. We focused on functional connectivity (FC) within the default mode network (DMN), frequently reported to be increased in MDD. Instead, we found decreased DMN FC when we compared 848 patients with MDD to 794 NCs from 17 sites after data exclusion. We found FC reduction only in recurrent MDD, not in first-episode drug-naïve MDD. Decreased DMN FC was associated with medication usage but not with MDD duration. DMN FC was also positively related to symptom severity but only in recurrent MDD. Exploratory analyses also revealed alterations in FC of visual, sensory-motor, and dorsal attention networks in MDD. We confirmed the key role of DMN in MDD but found reduced rather than increased FC within the DMN. Future studies should test whether decreased DMN FC mediates response to treatment. All R-fMRI indices of data contributed by the REST-meta-MDD consortium are being shared publicly via the R-fMRI Maps Project.

Keywords: REST-meta-MDD; default mode network; functional connectivity; major depressive disorder; resting-state fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • China
  • Connectome / methods
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Rest / physiology