Self-blame-selective hyper-connectivity between anterior temporal and subgenual cortices predicts prognosis in major depressive disorder

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Background: Self-blame-related fMRI measures were shown to predict subsequent recurrence in remitted major depressive disorder (MDD). Their role in current MDD, however, is unknown. We hypothesised that these neural signatures reflect a highly recurrent but remitting course of MDD and therefore predict favourable outcomes over a four-month follow-up period in current MDD. Methods: Forty-five participants with current MDD and non-responders to at least two serotonergic antidepressants, were encouraged to optimise their medication and followed up after receiving four months of primary care treatment-as-usual. Prior to their medication review, participants completed an fMRI paradigm in which they viewed self- and other-blame emotion-evoking statements. Thirty-nine participants met pre-defined fMRI data minimum quality thresholds. Psychophysiological interaction analysis was used to determine baseline connectivity of the right superior anterior temporal lobe (RSATL), with an a priori BA25 region-of-interest for self-blaming vs other-blaming emotions, using Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (16-item) percentage change as a covariate. Results: We corroborated our pre-registered hypothesis that a favourable clinical outcome was associated with higher self-blame-selective RSATL-BA25 connectivity (Family-Wise Error-corrected p <.05 over the a priori BA25 region-of-interest; r s(34) = −0.47, p =.005). This generalised to the sample including participants with suboptimal fMRI quality (r s(39) = −0.32, p =.05). Conclusions: This study shows that neural signatures of overgeneralised self-blame are relevant for prognostic stratification of current treatment-resistant MDD. Future studies need to confirm whether this neural signature indeed represents a trait-like feature of a fully remitting subtype of MDD, or whether it is also modulated by depressive state and related to treatment effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103453
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date16 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jun 2023


  • fMRI
  • self-blame
  • depression
  • biomarker
  • prognosis


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