Altered resting state effective connectivity of anterior insula in depression
Depression has been associated with changes in both functional and effective connectivity of large scale brain networks, including the default mode network, executive network, and salience network. However, studies of effective connectivity by means of spectral dynamic causal modeling (spDCM) are still rare and the interaction between the different resting state networks has not been investigated in detail. Thus, we aimed at exploring differences in effective connectivity among eight right hemisphere brain areas—anterior insula, inferior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus (MFG), frontal eye field, anterior cingulate cortex, superior parietal lobe, amygdala, and hippocampus, between a group of healthy controls (N = 20) and medicated depressed patients (N = 20). We found that patients not only had significantly reduced strength of the connection from the anterior insula to the MFG (i.e., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) but also a significant connection between the amygdala and the anterior insula. Moreover, depression severity correlated with connectivity of the hippocampal node. In conclusion, the results from this resting state spDCM study support and enrich previous data on the role of the right anterior insula in the pathophysiology of depression. Furthermore, our findings add to the growing evidence of an association between depression severity and disturbances of the hippocampal function in terms of impaired connectivity with other brain regions.