Neural biomarker of functional disability in major depressive disorder: A structural neuroimaging study

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Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry



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Background: Most patients with the major depressive disorder (MDD) have varying degrees of impaired social functioning, and functional improvement often lags behind symptomatic improvement. However, it is still unclear if certain neurobiological factors underlie the deficits of social function in MDD. The aim of this study was to investigate the biomarkers of social function in MDD using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Methods: 3T anatomical MRI was obtained from 272 subjects including 46 high-functioning (high-SF, Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS) rating < 18) and 63 low-functioning (low-SF, SDS score ≥ 18) patients with MDD and 163 healthy controls (HC). Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was employed to locate brain regions with grey matter (GM) volume differences in relation to social function in MDD. Regions showing GM differences in relation to social function at baseline were followed up longitudinally in a subset of 38 patients scanned after 12-week treatment. Results: Volume of right parahippocampal gyrus (rPHG) was significantly reduced in low-SF patients with MDD when compared to high-SF ones (FDR-corrected p < 0.05). Over 12 weeks of follow-up, though SF improved overall, the high and low-SF subgroups continued to differ in their SF, but had no progressive changes in PHG volume. Limitations: Limited functional assessment, high drop-out rate and median-based grouping method. Conclusions: Greater GM volume (GMV) of the rPHG may mark better social function in patients with MDD.