Functional brain-imaging correlates of negative affectivity and the onset of first-episode depression

C. G. Davey, S. Whittle, B. J. Harrison, J. G. Simmons, M. L. Byrne, O. S. Schwartz, N. B. Allen

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Background. The amygdala and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sACC) are key brain regions for the generation of negative affect. In this longitudinal fMRI study of adolescents we investigated how amygdala-sACC connectivity was correlated with negative affectivity (NA) both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, and examined its relationship to the onset of first-episode depression. Method. Fifty-six adolescents who were part of a larger longitudinal study of adolescent development were included. They had no history of mental illness at the time of their baseline scan (mean age 16.5 years) and had a follow-up scan 2 years later (mean age 18.8 years). We used resting-state functional-connectivity MRI to investigate whether cross-sectional and change measures of amygdala-sACC connectivity were (i) correlated with NA and its change over time, and (ii) related to the onset of first-episode depression. Results. The magnitude of amygdala connectivity with sACC showed significant positive correlation with NA at both time-points. Further analysis confirmed that change in amygdala-sACC connectivity between assessments was correlated with change in NA. Eight participants developed a first episode of depression between the baseline and follow-up assessments: they showed increased amygdala-sACC connectivity at follow-up. Conclusions. Amygdala-sACC connectivity is associated with NA in adolescence, with change in connectivity between these regions showing positive correlation with change in NA. Our observation that the onset of depression was associated with an increase in connectivity between the regions provides support for the neurobiological 'scar' hypothesis of depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1009
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • amygdala
  • cingulate
  • connectivity
  • fMRI
  • negative affectivity

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