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Abnormal white matter integrity in Chinese young adults with first-episode medication-free anxious depression: a possible neurological biomarker of subtype major depressive disorder

Authors Xia W, Zhou R, Zhao G, Wang F, Mao R, Peng D, Yang T, Wang Z, Chen J, Fang Y

Received 29 March 2018

Accepted for publication 21 May 2018

Published 10 August 2018 Volume 2018:14 Pages 2017—2026

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S169583

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Andrew Yee

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Wai Kwong Tang


Weiping Xia,1,2 Rubai Zhou,1 Guoqing Zhao,1 Fan Wang,1 Ruizhi Mao,1 Daihui Peng,1 Tao Yang,1 Zuowei Wang,1,3 Jun Chen,1 Yiru Fang1,4,5

1Division of Mood Disorders, Shanghai Mental Health Center, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China; 2Department of Medical Psychology, Xinhua Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China; 3Mood Disorder Department, Hongkou District Mental Health Center of Shanghai, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China; 4State Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China; 5Shanghai Key Laboratory of Psychotic Disorders, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China

Background: Almost half of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) also have clinically meaningful levels of anxiety. Anxious depression is a distinct clinical subtype of MDD, which has poor response to pharmacotherapy; however, the neural mechanisms behind are largely unknown. In the present study, we explored the white matter (WM) integrity traits of anxious depression in first-episode and medication-free (medication-naïve and medication washout) Chinese young adult patients by detecting differences in diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with the tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) method.
Subjects and methods: DTI was obtained from 39 first-episode, medication-free anxious depressive patients, 45 nonanxious depressive patients, and 50 demographically similar healthy controls. All subjects underwent clinical assessments. TBSS was carried out to investigate the difference in WM integrity among three groups within DTI parameter maps. WM integrity was measured using fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity (RD). The correlations between WM integrity and clinical features were also computed.
Results: When compared with nonanxious patients, lower FA values in anxious depressive patients were found in multiple regions of the brain, mainly involving left uncinate fasciculus (UF), superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), and forceps major and minor. Higher RD in forceps major and minor and SLF were also detected. The decreased FA values and increased RD values correlated with both anxiety level and depression level in the pooled depressive group.
Conclusion: The anxious depressive patients had more abnormalities in WM integrity at the early phase than the nonanxious group. Alternations in WM integrity in fiber pathways, including SLF, UF, and forceps major and minor, may play a critical role in the neuropathology of anxious depression and might help to identify anxious MDD from nonanxious MDD. Further study with larger sample size, larger age range, and longitudinal design is needed to confer a robust inference to better understand the dynamic neurological change and neuropathology of WM integrity in anxious MDD.

Keywords: diffusion tensor imaging, anxious depression, tract-based spatial statistics, micro-structure of whiter matter

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