Depressive symptoms in prodromal Huntington's Disease correlate with Stroop-interference related functional connectivity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex

Paul G. Unschuld, Suresh E. Joel, James J. Pekar, Sarah A. Reading, Kenichi Oishi, Julie McEntee, Megan Shanahan, Arnold Bakker, Russell L. Margolis, Susan S. Bassett, Adam Rosenblatt, Susumu Mori, Peter C. van Zijl, Christopher A. Ross, Graham W. Redgrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Huntington's Disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG) triplet repeat-expansion in the Huntingtin (HTT) gene. Diagnosis of HD is classically defined by the presence of motor symptoms; however, cognitive and depressive symptoms frequently precede motor manifestations, and may occur early in the prodromal phase. There are sparse data so far on functional brain correlates of depressive symptoms in prodromal HD. A Stroop color-naming test was administered to 32 subjects in the prodromal phase of HD and 52 expansion-negative controls while performing functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3. Tesla. Networks of functional connectivity were identified using group independent component analysis, followed by an analysis of functional network interactions. A contrast of temporal regression-based beta-weights was calculated as a reflection of Stroop-interference related activity and correlated with Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scores. For secondary analysis, patients were stratified into two subgroups by median split of CAG repeat-length. Stroop performance was independent of HTT mutation-carrier status and CES-D score. Stroop-interference-related activity of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex-node of the default-mode network, calculated by temporal-regression beta-weights, was more highly correlated with depressive symptoms in subjects in the prodromal phase of HD than in controls, differing significantly. The strength of this correlation and its difference from controls increased when a subgroup of patients with longer CAG repeat lengths was analyzed. These findings suggest that depressive symptoms in prodromal HD subjects may reflect altered functional brain network activity in the context of early HD-related brain alterations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-174
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Blood-oxygenation level dependent (BOLD)
  • Default mode network (DMN)
  • Depression
  • Functional connectivity
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Neurodegeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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