Emotion dysregulation and functional connectivity in children with and without a history of major depressive disorder

  • Katherine C. Lopez
  • Joan L. Luby
  • Andy C. Belden
  • Deanna M. Barch


Recent interest has emerged in understanding the neural mechanisms by which deficits in emotion regulation (ER) early in development may relate to later depression. Corticolimbic alterations reported in emotion dysregulation and depression may be one possible link. We examined the relationships between emotion dysregulation in school age, corticolimbic resting-state functional connectivity (rs-FC) in preadolescence, and depressive symptoms in adolescence. Participants were 143 children from a longitudinal preschool onset depression study who completed the Children Sadness Management Scale (CSMS; measuring ER), Child Depression Inventory (CDI-C; measuring depressive symptoms), and two resting-state MRI scans. Rs-FC between four primary regions of interest (ROIs; bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [dlPFC] and amygdala) and six target ROIs thought to contribute to ER were examined. Findings showed that ER in school age did not predict depressive symptoms in adolescence, but did predict preadolescent increases in dlPFC-insula and dlPFC-ventromedial PFC rs-FC across diagnosis, as well as increased dlPFC-dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) rs-FC in children with a history of depression. Of these profiles, only dlPFC-dACC rs-FC in preadolescence predicted depressive symptoms in adolescence. However, dlPFC-dACC connectivity did not mediate the relationship between ER in school age and depressive symptoms in adolescence. Despite the absence of a direct relationship between ER and depressive symptoms and no significant rs-FC mediation, the rs-FC profiles predicted by ER are consistent with the hypothesis that emotion dysregulation is associated with abnormalities in top-down control functions. The extent to which these relationships might confer greater risk for later depression, however, remains unclear.


Depression Development Emotion regulation Functional connectivity Prefrontal cortex 


Compliance with ethical standards

Declaration of Interest

All authors report no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

13415_2018_564_MOESM1_ESM.docx (987 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 986 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine C. Lopez
    • 1
  • Joan L. Luby
    • 2
  • Andy C. Belden
    • 2
  • Deanna M. Barch
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychological & Brain SciencesWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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