BACKGROUND - Neuroimaging studies in late life depression have reported decreased structural integrity of white matter tracts in the prefrontal cortex. Functional studies have identified changes in functional connectivity among several key areas involved in mood regulation. Few studies have combined structural and functional imaging. In this study we sought to examine the relationship between the uncinate fasciculus, a key fronto-temporal tract and resting state functional connectivity between the ventral prefrontal cortex ((PFC) and limbic and striatal areas.
METHODS - The sample consisted of 24 older patients remitted from unipolar major depression. Each participant had a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan using standardized protocols to obtain both diffusion tensor imaging and resting state functional connectivity data. Our statistical approach compared structural integrity of the uncinate fasciculus and functional connectivity data.
RESULTS - We found positive correlations between left uncinate fasciculus (UF) fractional anisotropy (FA) and resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) between the left ventrolateral PFC and left amygdala and between the left ventrolateral PFC and the left hippocampus. In addition, we found a significant negative correlation between left ventromedial PFC-caudate rsFC and left UF FA. The right UF FA did not correlate with any of the seed region based connectivity.
CONCLUSIONS - These results support the notion that resting state functional connectivity reflects structural integrity, since the ventral PFC is structurally connected to temporal regions by the UF. Future studies should include larger samples of patients and healthy comparison subjects in which both resting state and task-based functional connectivity are examined.