Alterations in visual cortical activation and connectivity with prefrontal cortex during working memory updating in major depressive disorder

Thang M. Le, John A. Borghi, Autumn J. Kujawa, Daniel N. Klein, Hoi Chung Leung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The present study examined the impacts of major depressive disorder (MDD) on visual and prefrontal cortical activity as well as their connectivity during visual working memory updating and related them to the core clinical features of the disorder. Impairment in working memory updating is typically associated with the retention of irrelevant negative information which can lead to persistent depressive mood and abnormal affect. However, performance deficits have been observed in MDD on tasks involving little or no demand on emotion processing, suggesting dysfunctions may also occur at the more basic level of information processing. Yet, it is unclear how various regions in the visual working memory circuit contribute to behavioral changes in MDD. We acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 18 unmedicated participants with MDD and 21 age-matched healthy controls (CTL) while they performed a visual delayed recognition task with neutral faces and scenes as task stimuli. Selective working memory updating was manipulated by inserting a cue in the delay period to indicate which one or both of the two memorized stimuli (a face and a scene) would remain relevant for the recognition test. Our results revealed several key findings. Relative to the CTL group, the MDD group showed weaker postcue activations in visual association areas during selective maintenance of face and scene working memory. Across the MDD subjects, greater rumination and depressive symptoms were associated with more persistent activation and connectivity related to no-longer-relevant task information. Classification of postcue spatial activation patterns of the scene-related areas was also less consistent in the MDD subjects compared to the healthy controls. Such abnormalities appeared to result from a lack of updating effects in postcue functional connectivity between prefrontal and scene-related areas in the MDD group. In sum, disrupted working memory updating in MDD was revealed by alterations in activity patterns of the visual association areas, their connectivity with the prefrontal cortex, and their relationship with core clinical characteristics. These results highlight the role of information updating deficits in the cognitive control and symptomatology of depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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