EEG marker of inhibitory brain activity correlates with resting-state cerebral blood flow in the reward system in major depression

  • A. Cantisani
  • T. Koenig
  • K. Stegmayer
  • A. Federspiel
  • H. Horn
  • T. J. Müller
  • R. Wiest
  • W. Strik
  • S. Walther
Original Paper


Frontal alpha band asymmetry (FAA) is a marker of altered reward processing in major depressive disorder (MDD), associated with reduced approach behavior and withdrawal. However, its association with brain metabolism remains unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate FAA and its correlation with resting-state cerebral blood flow (rCBF). We hypothesized an association of FAA with regional rCBF in brain regions relevant to reward processing and motivated behavior, such as the striatum. We enrolled 20 patients and 19 healthy subjects. FAA scores and rCBF were quantified with the use of EEG and arterial spin labeling. Correlations of the two were evaluated, as well as the association with FAA and psychometric assessments of motivated behavior and anhedonia. Patients showed a left-lateralized pattern of frontal alpha activity and a correlation of FAA lateralization with subscores of Hamilton Depression Rating Scale linked to motivated behavior. An association of rCBF and FAA scores was found in clusters in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex bilaterally (patients), in the left medial frontal gyrus, in the right caudate head and in the right inferior parietal lobule (whole group). No correlations were found in healthy controls. Higher inhibitory right-lateralized alpha power was associated with lower rCBF values in prefrontal and striatal regions, predominantly in the right hemisphere, which are involved in the processing of motivated behavior and reward. Inhibitory brain activity in the reward system may contribute to some of the motivational problems observed in MDD.


Major depression Arterial spin labeling Reward processing Approach motivation EEG Frontal alpha asymmetry 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Kay Jann for the discussion of methods. In addition, Dr. Jann provided the MATLAB toolbox to calculate rCBF from ASL data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

The study protocol was approved by the local ethics committee and was in accordance with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki.

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cantisani
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. Koenig
    • 1
  • K. Stegmayer
    • 1
  • A. Federspiel
    • 1
  • H. Horn
    • 1
  • T. J. Müller
    • 1
  • R. Wiest
    • 3
  • W. Strik
    • 1
  • S. Walther
    • 1
  1. 1.Translational Research Center, University Hospital of PsychiatryUniversity BernBern 60Switzerland
  2. 2.NeuroFarBa Department, Neuroscience SectionUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  3. 3.Department of Diagnostic and Interventional NeuroradiologyInselspital, University Hospital of BernBernSwitzerland

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