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Impaired bottom-up effective connectivity between amygdala and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in unmedicated adolescents with major depression: results from a dynamic causal modeling analysis

Musgrove, Donald R.
Eberly, Lynn E.
Klimes-Dougan, Bonnie
Basgoze, Zeynep
Thomas, Kathleen M.
Mueller, Bryon A.
Houri, Alaa
Lim, Kelvin O.
Cullen, Kathryn R.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a significant contributor to lifetime disability and frequently emerges in adolescence, yet little is known about the neural mechanisms of MDD in adolescents. Dynamic causal modeling (DCM) analysis is an innovative tool that can shed light on neural network abnormalities. A DCM analysis was conducted to test several frontolimbic effective connectivity models in 27 adolescents with MDD and 21 healthy adolescents. The best neural model for each person was identified using Bayesian model selection. The findings revealed that the two adolescent groups fit similar optimal neural models. The best across-groups model was then used to infer upon both within-group and between-group tests of intrinsic and modulation parameters of the network connections. First, for model validation, within-group tests revealed robust evidence for bottom-up connectivity, but less evidence for strong top-down connectivity in both groups. Second, we tested for differences between groups on the validated parameters of the best model. This revealed that adolescents with MDD had significantly weaker bottom-up connectivity in one pathway, from amygdala to sgACC (p = 0.008), than healthy controls. This study provides the first examination of effective connectivity using DCM within neural circuitry implicated in emotion processing in adolescents with MDD. These findings aid in advancing understanding the neurobiology of early-onset MDD during adolescence and have implications for future research investigating how effective connectivity changes across contexts, with development, over the course of the disease, and after intervention.