Decreased functional connectivity of the insula within the salience network as an indicator for prospective insufficient response to antidepressants
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Insufficient response to treatment is the main cause of prolonged suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD). Early identification of insufficient response could result in faster and more targeted treatment strategies to reduce suffering. We therefore explored whether baseline alterations within and between resting state functional connectivity networks could serve as markers of insufficient response to antidepressant treatment in two years of follow-up. We selected MDD patients (N = 17) from the NEtherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA), who received ≥ two antidepressants, indicative for insufficient response, during the two year follow-up, a group of MDD patients who received only one antidepressant (N = 32) and a healthy control group (N = 19) matched on clinical characteristics and demographics. An independent component analysis (ICA) of baseline resting-state scans was conducted after which functional connectivity within the components was compared between groups. We observed lower connectivity of the right insula within the salience network in the group with ≥ two antidepressants compared to the group with one antidepressant. No difference in connectivity was found between the patient groups and healthy control group. Given the suggested role of the right insula in switching between task-positive mode (activation during attention-demanding tasks) and task-negative mode (activation during the absence of any task), we explored whether right insula activation differed during switching between these two modes. We observed that in the ≥2 antidepressant group, the right insula was less active compared to the group with one antidepressant, when switching from task-positive to task-negative mode than the other way around. These findings imply that lower right insula connectivity within the salience network may serve as an indicator for prospective insufficient response to antidepressants. This result, supplemented by the diminished insula activation when switching between task and rest related networks, could indicate an underlying mechanism that, if not sufficiently targeted by current antidepressants, could lead to insufficient response. When replicated, these findings may contribute to the identification of biomarkers for early detection of insufficient response.