Cognitive behavioral therapy increases amygdala connectivity with the cognitive control network in both MDD and PTSD.

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.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2017.01.030DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331144PMC
November 2017
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