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Keywords:

  • caudate nucleus;
  • cingulate gyrus;
  • depression;
  • functional;
  • magnetic resonance imaging

Aim:  Reports on resting brain activity in healthy controls have described a default-mode network (DMN) and important differences in DMN connectivity have emerged for several psychiatric conditions. No study to date, however, has investigated resting-state DMN in relatively early depression before years of medication treatment. The objective of the present study was, therefore, to investigate the DMN in patients seeking help from specialized mental health services for the first time for symptoms of depression.

Methods:  Fourteen depressed subjects and 15 matched controls were scanned using 4-T functional magnetic resonance imaging while resting with eyes closed. All but one subject was medication free. A precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (P/PCC) seed-region connectivity analysis was used to identify the DMN and compare study groups in regions of relevance to depression.

Results:  The P/PCC analysis identified the DMN well in both study groups, consistent with prior literature. Direct comparison showed significantly reduced correlation between the P/PCC and the bilateral caudate in depression compared with controls and no areas of increased connectivity in the depressed group.

Conclusions:  The present study is the first to investigate resting-state DMN in the early stages of treatment-seeking for depression. Depressed subjects had decreased connectivity between the P/PCC and the bilateral caudate, regions known to be involved in motivation and reward processing. Deficits in DMN connectivity with the caudate may be an early manifestation of major depressive disorder.