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JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 1;75(10):1052-1061. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.1941.

Functional Connectivities in the Brain That Mediate the Association Between Depressive Problems and Sleep Quality.

Cheng W1, Rolls ET2,3, Ruan H4, Feng J1,2,4,5,6.

Author information

Institute of Science and Technology for Brain-inspired Intelligence, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.
Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Oxford, United Kingdom.
School of Mathematical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
School of Life Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
The Collaborative Innovation Center for Brain Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.



Depression is associated with poor sleep quality. Understanding the neural connectivity that underlies both conditions and mediates the association between them is likely to lead to better-directed treatments for depression and associated sleep problems.


To identify the brain areas that mediate the association of depressive symptoms with poor sleep quality and advance understanding of the differences in brain connectivity in depression.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

This study collected data from participants in the Human Connectome Project using the Adult Self-report of Depressive Problems portion of the Achenbach Adult Self-Report for Ages 18-59, a survey of self-reported sleep quality, and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Cross-validation of the sleep findings was conducted in 8718 participants from the UK Biobank.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Correlations between functional connectivity, scores on the Adult Self-Report of Depressive Problems, and sleep quality.


A total of 1017 participants from the Human Connectome Project (of whom 546 [53.7%] were female; age range, 22 to 35 years) drawn from a general population in the United States were included. The Depressive Problems score was positively correlated with poor sleep quality (r = 0.371; P < .001). A total of 162 functional connectivity links involving areas associated with sleep, such as the precuneus, anterior cingulate cortex, and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, were identified. Of these links, 39 were also associated with the Depressive Problems scores. The brain areas with increased functional connectivity associated with both sleep and Depressive Problems scores included the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, insula, parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampus, amygdala, temporal cortex, and precuneus. A mediation analysis showed that these functional connectivities underlie the association of the Depressive Problems score with poor sleep quality (β = 0.0139; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance:

The implication of these findings is that the increased functional connectivity between these brain regions provides a neural basis for the association between depression and poor sleep quality. An important finding was that the Depressive Problems scores in this general population were correlated with functional connectivities between areas, including the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, precuneus, angular gyrus, and temporal cortex. The findings have implications for the treatment of depression and poor sleep quality.

[Available on 2019-07-25]

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