Amygdala Atrophy and Its Functional Disconnection with the Cortico-Striatal-Pallidal-Thalamic Circuit in Major Depressive Disorder in Females

Yang, Jie; Yin, Yingying; Svob, Connie; Long, Jun; He, Xiaofu; Zhang, Yuqun; Xu, Zhi; Dong, Jian; Li, Lei; Liu, Jie; Zhang, Zuping; Wang, Zhishun; Yuan, Yonggui


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is approximately twice as common in females than males. Furthermore, female patients with MDD tend to manifest comorbid anxiety. Few studies have explored the potential anatomical and functional brain changes associated with MDD in females. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the anatomical and functional changes underlying MDD in females, especially within the context of comorbid anxiety.


In this study, we recruited antidepressant-free females with MDD (N = 35) and healthy female controls (HC; N = 23). The severity of depression and anxiety were evaluated by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), respectively. Structural and resting-state functional images were acquired on a Siemens 3.0 Tesla scanner. We compared the structural volumetric differences between patients and HC with voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analyses. Seed-based voxel-wise correlative analyses were used to identify abnormal functional connectivity. Regions with structural deficits showed a significant correlation between gray matter (GM) volume and clinical variables that were selected as seeds. Furthermore, voxel-wise functional connectivity analyses were applied to identify the abnormal connectivity relevant to seed in the MDD group.


Decreased GM volume in patients was observed in the insula, putamen, amygdala, lingual gyrus, and cerebellum. The right amygdala was selected as a seed to perform connectivity analyses, since its GM volume exhibited a significant correlation with the clinical anxiety scores. We detected regions with disrupted connectivity relevant to seed primarily within the cortico-striatal-pallidal-thalamic circuit.


Amygdaloid atrophy, as well as decreased functional connectivity between the amygdala and the cortico-striatal-pallidal-thalamic circuit, appears to play a role in female MDD, especially in relation to comorbid anxiety.


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February 8, 2017