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Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2018 Apr;3(4):348-357. doi: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Feb 2.

Orbital and Medial Prefrontal Cortex Functional Connectivity of Major Depression Vulnerability and Disease.

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Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Electronic address:
Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi.



Pathophysiology models of major depression (MD) center on the dysfunction of various cortical areas within the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex. While independent structural and functional abnormalities in these areas are consistent findings in MD, the complex interactions among them and the rest of the cortex remain largely unexplored.


We used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging connectivity to systematically map alterations in the communication between orbital and medial prefrontal cortex fields and the rest of the brain in MD. Functional connectivity (FC) maps from participants with current MD (n = 35), unaffected first-degree relatives (n = 36), and healthy control subjects (n = 38) were subjected to conjunction analyses to distinguish FC markers of MD vulnerability and FC markers of MD disease.


FC abnormalities in MD vulnerability were found for dorsal medial wall regions and the anterior insula and concerned altered communication of these areas with the inferior parietal cortex and dorsal posterior cingulate, occipital areas and the brainstem. FC aberrations in current MD included the anterior insula, rostral and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and lateral orbitofrontal areas and concerned altered communication with the dorsal striatum, the cerebellum, the precuneus, the anterior prefrontal cortex, somatomotor cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and visual areas in the occipital and inferior temporal lobes.


Functionally delineated parcellation maps can be used to identify putative connectivity markers in extended cortical regions such as the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex. The anterior insula and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex play a central role in the pathophysiology of MD, being consistently implicated both in the MD vulnerability and MD disease states.


Family history; Functional connectivity; MRI; Major depression; Prefrontal; Vulnerability

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