Emily Belleau, Ph.D.

Fellow In Child & Adolescent Depression

Project Details


Diego A. Pizzagalli, Ph.D.


McLean Hospital


Neural underpinnings of acute stress and stress recovery in adolescent depression


Neural underpinnings of acute stress and stress recovery in adolescent depression


Heightened stress reactivity is a prominent vulnerability marker for major depressive disorder (MDD), particularly for females, and such reactivity is pronounced during adolescence, when MDD rates become double in females versus males However, few studies have examined the neural underpinnings of aberrant stress reactivity and recovery in MDD. Studies conducted in healthy control adults have demonstrated that successful stress recovery involves increased connections between the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and reduced connections between key nodes of the default mode network (the medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex). To fill this critical gap, the applicant proposes to investigate neural activation and neural network resting state functional connectivity before, during, and after acute stress in female adolescents with and without MDD. Additionally, we will examine whether stress-related neural abnormalities predict elevated depressive symptoms three-month post-scan within the MDD group. Successful completion of the study aims will 1) help characterize the trajectory of aberrant neural changes during acute stress responses in female adolescents with MDD and 2) serve as a first step in examining stress-related neural predictors of change in depressive symptom severity. These findings may help facilitate the search for biomarkers of MDD and predictors of future depressive episodes, which may spur earlier intervention efforts.

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