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Modulation of the functional connectome in major depressive disorder by ketamine therapy

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Background: Subanesthetic ketamine infusion therapy can produce fast-acting antidepressant effects in patients with major depression. How single and repeated ketamine treatment modulates the whole-brain functional connectome to affect clinical outcomes remains uncharacterized.

Methods: Data-driven whole brain functional connectivity (FC) analysis was used to identify the functional connections modified by ketamine treatment in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD patients (N = 61, mean age = 38, 19 women) completed baseline resting-state (RS) functional magnetic resonance imaging and depression symptom scales. Of these patients, n = 48 and n = 51, completed the same assessments 24 h after receiving one and four 0.5 mg/kg intravenous ketamine infusions. Healthy controls (HC) (n = 40, 24 women) completed baseline assessments with no intervention. Analysis of RS FC addressed effects of diagnosis, time, and remitter status.

Results: Significant differences (p < 0.05, corrected) in RS FC were observed between HC and MDD at baseline in the somatomotor network and between association and default mode networks. These disruptions in FC in MDD patients trended toward control patterns with ketamine treatment. Furthermore, following serial ketamine infusions, significant decreases in FC were observed between the cerebellum and salience network (SN) (p < 0.05, corrected). Patient remitters showed increased FC between the cerebellum and the striatum prior to treatment that decreased following treatment, whereas non-remitters showed the opposite pattern.

Conclusion: Results support that ketamine treatment leads to neurofunctional plasticity between distinct neural networks that are shown as disrupted in MDD patients. Cortico-striatal-cerebellar loops that encompass the SN could be a potential biomarker for ketamine treatment.

Sahib, A. K., Loureiro, J. R., Vasavada, M., Anderson, C., Kubicki, A., Wade, B., Joshi, S. H., Woods, R. P., Congdon, E., Espinoza, R., & Narr, K. L. (2020). Modulation of the functional connectome in major depressive disorder by ketamine therapy. Psychological medicine, 1–10. Advance online publication.

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