Biobehavioral correlates of an fMRI index of striatal tissue iron in depressed patients

Rebecca B. Price, Brenden C. Tervo-Clemmens, Benjamin Panny, Michelle Degutis, Angela Griffo, Mary Woody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Dopaminergic function is a critical transdiagnostic neurophysiological dimension with broad relevance in psychiatry. Normalized T2*-weighted (nT2*w) imaging has been previously investigated as a method to quantify biological properties of tissue in the striatum (e.g., tissue iron), providing a widely available, in vivo marker with potential relevance to dopaminergic function; but no prior study to our knowledge has examined this neuroimaging marker in clinical depression. In a treatment-seeking, clinically depressed sample (n = 110), we quantified tissue iron (nT2*w) in striatal regions. We assessed test-retest reliability and correlated values with dimensional features across levels of analysis, including demographic/biological (sex, age, Body Mass Index), neuroanatomical (hippocampal atrophy, which was quantified using a recently validated machine-learning algorithm), and performance-based (Affective Go/NoGo task performance) indices with relevance to depressive neurocognition. Across patients, decreased tissue iron concentration (as indexed by higher nT2*w) in striatal regions correlated with indices of decreased cognitive-affective function on the Affective Go/NoGo task. Greater caudate nT2*w also correlated with greater hippocampal atrophy. Striatal tissue iron concentrations were robustly lower in female patients than males but gender differences did not explain relations with other neurocognitive variables. A widely available fMRI index of striatal tissue properties, which exhibited strong psychometric properties and can be readily quantified from most fMRI datasets irrespective of study-specific features such as task design, showed relevance to multiple biobehavioral markers of pathophysiology in the context of moderate-to-severe, treatment-resistant depression. Striatal tissue iron may play a role in dimensional and subgroup-specific features of depression, with implications for future research on depression heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number448
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIH grant R01MH113857. We gratefully acknowledge the study participants for their contributions to this work, and Babak Ardekani, PhD, for his assistance in implementing KAIBA software.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


Dive into the research topics of 'Biobehavioral correlates of an fMRI index of striatal tissue iron in depressed patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this