Neuroimage Clin 2017 27;14:464-470. Epub 2017 Jan 27.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, United States; Department of Radiology, University of Pennsylvania, United States.
Background: Both major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are characterized by alterations in intrinsic functional connectivity. Here we investigated changes in intrinsic functional connectivity across these disorders as a function of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an effective treatment in both disorders.
Methods: 53 unmedicated right-handed participants were included in a longitudinal study. Patients were diagnosed with PTSD ( = 18) and MDD ( = 17) with a structured diagnostic interview and treated with 12 sessions of manualized CBT over a 12-week period. Patients received an MRI scan (Siemens 3 T Trio) before and after treatment. Longitudinal functional principal components analysis (LFPCA) was performed on functional connectivity of the bilateral amygdala with the fronto-parietal network. A matched healthy control group ( = 18) was also scanned twice for comparison.
Results: LFPCA identified four eigenimages or principal components (PCs) that contributed significantly to the longitudinal change in connectivity. The second PC differentiated CBT-treated patients from controls in having significantly increased connectivity of the amygdala with the fronto-parietal network following CBT.
Limitations: Analysis of CBT-induced amygdala connectivity changes was restricted to the a priori determined fronto-parietal network. Future studies are needed to determine the generalizability of these findings, given the small and predominantly female sample.
Conclusion: We found evidence for the hypothesis that CBT treatment is associated with changes in connectivity between the amygdala and the fronto-parietal network. CBT may work by strengthening connections between the amygdala and brain regions that are involved in cognitive control, potentially providing enhanced top-down control of affective processes that are dysregulated in both MDD and PTSD.