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Original Investigation
October 2018

Functional Connectivities in the Brain That Mediate the Association Between Depressive Problems and Sleep Quality

Author Affiliations
  • 1Institute of Science and Technology for Brain-inspired Intelligence, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 2Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
  • 3Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 4School of Mathematical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 5School of Life Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 6The Collaborative Innovation Center for Brain Science, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(10):1052-1061. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.1941
Key Points

Question  Is it possible to identify brain functional connectivities that mediate the association of depressive symptoms with poor sleep quality and advance understanding of the differences in brain functional connectivity in individuals with higher scores on the Depressive Problems scale?

Findings  In 1017 participants in the Human Connectome Project, brain areas with increased functional connectivity associated with both sleep and Depressive Problems scores included the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, insula, parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampus, amygdala, temporal cortex, and precuneus. A mediation analysis showed that these functional connectivities underlie the association of depressive problem scores with poor sleep quality.

Meaning  In this study, the increased functional connectivity between these brain regions provides a neural basis for the association of depression with poor sleep quality; in this general population from the United States that was not selected for depression, Depressive Problems scores were correlated with functional connectivities in the brain, including the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which has implications for the treatment of depression and poor sleep quality.

Abstract

Importance  Depression is associated with poor sleep quality. Understanding the neural connectivity that underlies both conditions and mediates the association between them is likely to lead to better-directed treatments for depression and associated sleep problems.

Objective  To identify the brain areas that mediate the association of depressive symptoms with poor sleep quality and advance understanding of the differences in brain connectivity in depression.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This study collected data from participants in the Human Connectome Project using the Adult Self-report of Depressive Problems portion of the Achenbach Adult Self-Report for Ages 18-59, a survey of self-reported sleep quality, and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Cross-validation of the sleep findings was conducted in 8718 participants from the UK Biobank.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Correlations between functional connectivity, scores on the Adult Self-Report of Depressive Problems, and sleep quality.

Results  A total of 1017 participants from the Human Connectome Project (of whom 546 [53.7%] were female; age range, 22 to 35 years) drawn from a general population in the United States were included. The Depressive Problems score was positively correlated with poor sleep quality (r = 0.371; P < .001). A total of 162 functional connectivity links involving areas associated with sleep, such as the precuneus, anterior cingulate cortex, and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, were identified. Of these links, 39 were also associated with the Depressive Problems scores. The brain areas with increased functional connectivity associated with both sleep and Depressive Problems scores included the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, insula, parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampus, amygdala, temporal cortex, and precuneus. A mediation analysis showed that these functional connectivities underlie the association of the Depressive Problems score with poor sleep quality (β = 0.0139; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance  The implication of these findings is that the increased functional connectivity between these brain regions provides a neural basis for the association between depression and poor sleep quality. An important finding was that the Depressive Problems scores in this general population were correlated with functional connectivities between areas, including the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, precuneus, angular gyrus, and temporal cortex. The findings have implications for the treatment of depression and poor sleep quality.

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