What is it about?

Episodes of depression may be categorized into different subtypes according to the presence of specific clusters of symptoms. Episodes of the melancholic subtype of depression include a loss of pleasure and motivation, and may also include symptoms like low mood, slowing of movements or speech, or excessive guilt. Existing neuroimaging research suggests the "subgenual cingulate cortex", a brain region of known importance to depression, may function abnormally in patients with current melancholic depression. It is not yet known, however, whether patients with a history of melancholic depression who aren't currently depressed demonstrate similar brain abnormalities. In this study, we measured connectivity of the subgenual cingulate to the resting brain in patients with a history of melancholic depression, with a history of non-melancholic depression, and in healthy volunteers. Resting-state functional connectivity between the subgenual cingulate cortex and left amygdala was lower in patients with a history of melancholic depression compared to the other participants in the study. Since patients with a history of depression are at risk for experiencing more episodes in the future, this suggests the pattern of connectivity we reported may be a risk factor for experiencing episodes of melancholic depression.

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Why is it important?

These results provide the first resting-state neural signature distinctive of melancholic remitted depression and may reflect a subtype-specific primary vulnerability factor given a lack of association with the number of previous episodes.

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This page is a summary of: Subgenual Cingulate–Amygdala Functional Disconnection and Vulnerability to Melancholic Depression, Neuropsychopharmacology, January 2016, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/npp.2016.8.
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