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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Jun;41(7):1822-30. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.352. Epub 2015 Dec 3.

Dynamic Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Major Depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA.
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by abnormal resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC), especially in medial prefrontal cortical (MPFC) regions of the default network. However, prior research in MDD has not examined dynamic changes in functional connectivity as networks form, interact, and dissolve over time. We compared unmedicated individuals with MDD (n=100) to control participants (n=109) on dynamic RSFC (operationalized as SD in RSFC over a series of sliding windows) of an MPFC seed region during a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. Among participants with MDD, we also investigated the relationship between symptom severity and RSFC. Secondary analyses probed the association between dynamic RSFC and rumination. Results showed that individuals with MDD were characterized by decreased dynamic (less variable) RSFC between MPFC and regions of parahippocampal gyrus within the default network, a pattern related to sustained positive connectivity between these regions across sliding windows. In contrast, the MDD group exhibited increased dynamic (more variable) RSFC between MPFC and regions of insula, and higher severity of depression was related to increased dynamic RSFC between MPFC and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These patterns of highly variable RSFC were related to greater frequency of strong positive and negative correlations in activity across sliding windows. Secondary analyses indicated that increased dynamic RSFC between MPFC and insula was related to higher levels of recent rumination. These findings provide initial evidence that depression, and ruminative thinking in depression, are related to abnormal patterns of fluctuating communication among brain systems involved in regulating attention and self-referential thinking.

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