Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the ventral anterior limb of the internal capsule (vALIC) is a promising intervention for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). However, the working mechanisms of vALIC DBS in TRD remain largely unexplored. As major depressive disorder has been associated with aberrant amygdala functioning, we investigated whether vALIC DBS affects amygdala responsivity and functional connectivity. To investigate the long-term effects of DBS, eleven patients with TRD performed an implicit emotional face-viewing paradigm during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before DBS surgery and after DBS parameter optimization. Sixteen matched healthy controls performed the fMRI paradigm at two-time points to control for test-retest effects. To investigate the short-term effects of DBS de-activation after parameter optimization, thirteen patients additionally performed the fMRI paradigm after double-blind periods of active and sham stimulation. Results showed that TRD patients had decreased right amygdala responsivity compared to healthy controls at baseline. Long-term vALIC DBS normalized right amygdala responsivity, which was associated with faster reaction times. This effect was not dependent on emotional valence. Furthermore, active compared to sham DBS increased amygdala connectivity with sensorimotor and cingulate cortices, which was not significantly different between responders and non-responders. These results suggest that vALIC DBS restores amygdala responsivity and behavioral vigilance in TRD, which may contribute to the DBS-induced antidepressant effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2500-2507
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular psychiatry
Issue number6
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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