Brain structural connectivity, anhedonia, and phenotypes of major depressive disorder: A structural equation model approach

Hum Brain Mapp. 2021 Oct 15;42(15):5063-5074. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25600. Epub 2021 Jul 24.


Aberrant brain structural connectivity in major depressive disorder (MDD) has been repeatedly reported, yet many previous studies lack integration of different features of MDD with structural connectivity in multivariate modeling approaches. In n = 595 MDD patients, we used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test the intercorrelations between anhedonia, anxiety, neuroticism, and cognitive control in one comprehensive model. We then separately analyzed diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) connectivity measures in association with those clinical variables, and finally integrated brain connectivity associations, clinical/cognitive variables into a multivariate SEM. We first confirmed our clinical/cognitive SEM. DTI analyses (FWE-corrected) showed a positive correlation of anhedonia with fractional anisotropy (FA) in the right anterior thalamic radiation (ATR) and forceps minor/corpus callosum, while neuroticism was negatively correlated with axial diffusivity (AD) in the left uncinate fasciculus (UF) and inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF). An extended SEM confirmed the associations of ATR FA with anhedonia and UF/IFOF AD with neuroticism impacting on cognitive control. Our findings provide evidence for a differential impact of state and trait variables of MDD on brain connectivity and cognition. The multivariate approach shows feasibility of explaining heterogeneity within MDD and tracks this to specific brain circuits, thus adding to better understanding of heterogeneity on the biological level.

Keywords: anhedonia; connectivity; diffusion tensor imaging; major depressive disorder (MDD); neuroticism; structural equation modeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anhedonia* / physiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / classification
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / diagnostic imaging
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / pathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / physiopathology
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Executive Function* / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroticism* / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology*