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13-09-2021 | Original Article

Cognitive and Affective Empathy as Indirect Paths Between Heterogeneous Depression Symptoms on Default Mode and Salience Network Connectivity in Adolescents

Tijdschrift:
Child Psychiatry & Human Development
Auteurs:
Drew E. Winters, Patrick J. Pruitt, Malgorzata Gambin, Sadaaki Fukui, Melissa A. Cyders, Barbara J. Pierce, Kathy Lay, Jessica S. Damoiseaux
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10578-021-01242-2.

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Abstract

Depression amongst adolescents is a prevalent disorder consisting of heterogeneous emotional and functional symptoms—often involving impairments in social domains such as empathy. Cognitive and affective components of empathy as well as their associated neural networks (default mode network for cognitive empathy and salience network for affective empathy) are affected by depression. Depression commonly onsets during adolescence, a critical period for brain development underlying empathy. However, the available research in this area conceptualizes depression as a homogenous construct, and thereby miss to represent the full spectrum of symptoms. The present study aims to extend previous literature by testing whether cognitive and affective empathy indirectly account for associations between brain network connectivity and heterogeneous depression symptoms in adolescents. Heterogeneous functional and emotional symptoms of depression were measured using the child depression inventory. Our results indicate that cognitive empathy mediates the association between default mode network functional connectivity and emotional symptoms of depression. More specifically, that adolescents with a stronger positive association between the default mode network and cognitive empathy show lower emotional depression symptoms. This finding highlights the importance of cognitive empathy in the relationship between brain function and depression symptoms, which may be an important consideration for existing models of depression in adolescents.

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