Thalamocortical connectivity in major depressive disorder

Elliot C. Brown, Darren L. Clark, Stefanie Hassel, Glenda MacQueen, Rajamannar Ramasubbu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is highly prevalent and potentially devastating, with widespread aberrations in brain activity. Thalamocortical networks are a potential candidate marker for psychopathology in MDD, but have not yet been thoroughly investigated. Here we examined functional connectivity between major cortical areas and thalamus.
Method: Resting-state fMRI from 54 MDD patients and 40 healthy controls were collected. The cortex was segmented into six regions of interest (ROIs) consisting of frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes and pre-central and post-central gyri. BOLD signal time courses were extracted from each ROI and correlated with voxels in thalamus, while removing signals from every other ROI.
Results: Our main findings showed that MDD patients had predominantly increased connectivity between medial thalamus and temporal areas, and between medial thalamus and somatosensory areas. Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between thalamo-temporal connectivity and severity of symptoms.
Limitations: Most of the patients in this study were not medication naïve and therefore we cannot rule out possible long-term effects of antidepressant use on the findings.
Conclusion: The abnormal connectivity between thalamus and temporal, and thalamus and somatosensory regions may represent impaired cortico-thalamo-cortical modulation underlying emotional, and sensory disturbances in MDD. In the context of similar abnormalities in thalamocortical systems across major psychiatric disorders, thalamocortical dysconnectivity could be a reliable transdiagnostic marker.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date5 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • depression
  • neuroimaging
  • fMRI


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