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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 27;8(6):e68355. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068355. Print 2013.

Escitalopram Decreases Cross-Regional Functional Connectivity within the Default-Mode Network.

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1
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

The default-mode network (DMN), which comprises medial frontal, temporal and parietal regions, is part of the brain's intrinsic organization. The serotonergic (5-HT) neurotransmitter system projects to DMN regions from midbrain efferents, and manipulation of this system could thus reveal insights into the neurobiological mechanisms of DMN functioning. Here, we investigate intrinsic functional connectivity of the DMN as a function of activity of the serotonergic system, through the administration of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram. We quantified DMN functional connectivity using an approach based on dual-regression. Specifically, we decomposed group data of a subset of the functional time series using spatial independent component analysis, and projected the group spatial modes to the same and an independent resting state time series of individual participants. We found no effects of escitalopram on global functional connectivity of the DMN at the map-level; that is, escitalopram did not alter the global functional architecture of the DMN. However, we found that escitalopram decreased DMN regional pairwise connectivity, which included anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, hippocampal complex and lateral parietal regions. Further, regional DMN connectivity covaried with alertness ratings across participants. Our findings show that escitalopram altered intrinsic regional DMN connectivity, which suggests that the serotonergic system plays an important role in DMN connectivity and its contribution to cognition. Pharmacological challenge designs may be a useful addition to resting-state functional MRI to investigate intrinsic brain functional organization.

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