An improved approach to detection of amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (ALFF) for resting-state fMRI: fractional ALFF.
Antidepressant medications represent the most common treatment option for major depressive disorder (MDD), but the neuro-psychological mechanisms by which antidepressants act to improve depressive symptoms remain under-specified. We designed this study to assess the effects of escitalopram treatment on spontaneous brain activity of MDD patients using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty first-episode drug-naive MDD patients received resting-state fMRI scans before and after 8 weeks of treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor - escitalopram. Twenty age- and gender-matched healthy controls were also scanned twice with an 8-week interval. The fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuation (fALFF) was used to characterize the spontaneous brain activity. The analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed to determine treatment-related changes in fALFF. The symptoms were significantly improved in MDD patients after treatment. We observed significant group-by-time interaction on fALFF in the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, the right middle frontal gyrus, and the left putamen. Post-hoc analyses showed that the fALFF values in these regions were significantly higher in the MDD patients compared to healthy controls at baseline and were reduced after treatment. The findings suggest that abnormalities in the brain areas involved in emotional processing and regulation could be normalized by effective antidepressant treatment with escitalopram in the MDD patients and free of a task situation.