Shared and Unique Changes in Brain Connectivity Among Depressed Patients After Remission With Pharmacotherapy Versus Psychotherapy

Boadie W. Dunlop, Jungho Cha, Ki Sueng Choi, Justin K. Rajendra, Charles B. Nemeroff, W. Edward Craighead, Helen S. Mayberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The authors sought to determine the shared and unique changes in brain resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) between patients with major depressive disorder who achieved remission with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or with antidepressant medication. METHODS: The Predictors of Remission in Depression to Individual and Combined Treatments (PReDICT) trial randomized adults with treatment-naive major depressive disorder to 12 weeks of treatment with CBT (16 1-hour sessions) or medication (duloxetine 30-60 mg/day or escitalopram 10-20 mg/day). Resting-state functional MRI scans were performed at baseline and at week 12. The primary outcome was change in the whole-brain rsFC of four seeded brain networks among participants who achieved remission. RESULTS: Of the 131 completers with usable MRI data (74 female; mean age, 39.8 years), remission was achieved by 19 of 40 CBT-treated and 45 of 91 medication-treated patients. Three patterns of connectivity changes were observed. First, those who remitted with either treatment shared a pattern of reduction in rsFC between the subcallosal cingulate cortex and the motor cortex. Second, reciprocal rsFC changes were observed across multiple networks, primarily increases in CBT remitters and decreases in medication remitters. And third, in CBT remitters only, rsFC increased within the executive control network and between the executive control network and parietal attention regions. CONCLUSIONS: Remission from major depression via treatment with CBT or medication is associated with changes in rsFC that are mostly specific to the treatment modality, providing biological support for the clinical practice of switching between or combining these treatment approaches. Medication is associated with broadly inhibitory effects. In CBT remitters, the increase in rsFC strength between networks involved in cognitive control and attention provides biological support for the theorized mechanism of CBT. Reducing affective network connectivity with motor systems is a shared process important for remission with both CBT and medication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-229
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Antidepressants
  • Biological Markers
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Psychotherapy


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