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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 Apr;43(5):1146-1155. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.249. Epub 2017 Oct 20.

Pregenual Anterior Cingulate Dysfunction Associated with Depression in OCD: An Integrated Multimodal fMRI/1H MRS Study.

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Division of Adult Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Depression is a commonly occurring symptom in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and is associated with worse functional impairment, poorer quality of life, and poorer treatment response. Understanding the underlying neurochemical and connectivity-based brain mechanisms of this important symptom domain in OCD is necessary for development of novel, more globally effective treatments. To investigate biopsychological mechanisms of comorbid depression in OCD, we examined effective connectivity and neurochemical signatures in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC), a structure known to be involved in both OCD and depression. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) data were obtained from participants with OCD (n=49) and healthy individuals of equivalent age and sex (n=25). Granger causality-based effective (directed) connectivity was used to define causal networks involving the right and left pACC. The interplay between fMRI connectivity, 1H MRS and clinical data was explored by applying moderation and mediation analyses. We found that the causal influence of the right dorsal anterior midcingulate cortex (daMCC) on the right pACC was significantly lower in the OCD group and showed significant correlation with depressive symptom severity in the OCD group. Lower and moderate levels of glutamate (Glu) in the right pACC significantly moderated the interaction between right daMCC-pACC connectivity and depression severity. Our results suggest a biochemical-connectivity-psychological model of pACC dysfunction contributing to depression in OCD, particularly involving intracingulate connectivity and glutamate levels in the pACC. These findings have implications for potential molecular and network targets for treatment of this multi-faceted psychiatric condition.

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