White matter microstructure relates to lassitude but not diagnosis in adolescents with depression

Kathryn R Cullen, Roland Brown, Melinda Westlund Schreiner, Lynn E Eberly, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Kristina M Reigstad, Dawson Hill, Kelvin O Lim, Bryon A Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The neurobiology of adolescent depression remains poorly understood. Initial studies suggested impaired white matter microstructure in adults and adolescents, but findings have not been consistent. Challenges in this literature have included small samples, medication confounds and inconsistent correction for type I error. This study addressed these issues in a new examination of fractional anisotropy (FA) in adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD) using diffusion tensor imaging. We examined FA in 81 adolescents aged 12–19 (44 MDD [all unmedicated], 37 controls). We conducted logistic regression analyses to examine the odds of MDD versus control based on FA within standard white matter tracts that were delineated by probabilistic tractography. We also examined relationships between FA and disease severity (overall depression and dimensions of illness). Finally, we conducted a voxel-wise group comparison of FA. All analyses covaried for age, sex and socioeconomic status, and applied rigorous corrections for multiple testing. Logistic regression did not reveal significant associations between diagnosis and FA within white matter tracts defined by probabilistic tractography. Dimensional analyses revealed that greater lassitude was associated with higher FA in right cingulum bundle and bilateral corticospinal tracts, but with lower FA in right anterior thalamic radiation. Voxel-wise group comparisons of FA did not reveal significant group differences. The current findings do not support low FA as a neurobiological marker of adolescent depression. Dimensional results suggest that FA relates to lassitude but not overall depression. Given the clinical and neurobiological heterogeneity of depression, future work utilizing dimensional approaches may help elucidate the role of white matter microstructure in adolescent depression neurobiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1507-1520
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Adolescent
  • Depression
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • White matter


Dive into the research topics of 'White matter microstructure relates to lassitude but not diagnosis in adolescents with depression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this