Longitudinal Trajectory of the Link Between Ventral Striatum and Depression in Adolescence

The American journal of psychiatry

Am J Psychiatry. 2022 Jul;179(7):470-481. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.20081180. Epub 2022 May 18.


OBJECTIVE: Research in adolescent depression has found aberrant intrinsic functional connectivity (iFC) among the ventral striatum (VS) and several brain regions implicated in reward processing. The present study probes this question by taking advantage of the availability of data from a large youth cohort, the IMAGEN Consortium.

METHODS: iFC data from 303 adolescents (48% of them female) were used to examine associations of VS connectivity at baseline (at age 14) with depressive disorders at baseline and at 2-year (N=250) and 4-year (N=219) follow-ups. Eleven regions of interest, key nodes of the reward system, were used to probe the reward network and calculate the connectivity strength of the VS within this network (VS connectivityrw). The main analyses assessed associations of VS connectivityrw with depressive disorders, anhedonia, and low mood using logistic regression. Autoregressive models accounting for carryover effects over time were conducted to further evaluate these brain-behavior associations.

RESULTS: Higher right VS connectivityrw was associated with higher probability of depressive disorders at baseline (odds ratio=2.65, 95% CI=1.40, 5.05). This finding was confirmed in the autoregressive model, adjusting for carryover effects of the depressive disorders across the three time points. VS connectivityrw was not predictive of depressive disorders at follow-up assessments. Longitudinal associations between VS connectivityrw and anhedonia emerged in the structural equation model: left VS connectivityrw was associated with anhedonia at 2 years (odds ratio=2.20, 95% CI=1.54, 3.14), and right VS connectivityrw was linked to anhedonia at 4 years (odds ratio=1.87, 95% CI=1.09, 3.21). VS connectivityrw did not predict low mood at any time point in the structural equation model.

CONCLUSIONS: The connectivity strength of the VS within the reward network showed distinct patterns of association with depressive disorders and anhedonia from mid to late adolescence, suggesting that the role of this circuitry in depression changes with age. This study replicates, in an independent sample, the association between the VS and depression previously reported in younger adolescents. The findings suggest a role of VS connectivityrw in anhedonia but not in low mood.

PMID:35582783 | DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.20081180