Initial Evidence for Brain Plasticity Following a Digital Therapeutic Intervention for Depression

Megan M. Hoch, Gaelle E. Doucet, Dominik A. Moser, Won Hee Lee, Katherine A. Collins, Kathryn M. Huryk, Kaitlin E. DeWilde, Lazar Fleysher, Dan V. Iosifescu, James W. Murrough, Dennis S. Charney, Sophia Frangou, Brian M. Iacoviello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Digital therapeutics such as cognitive–emotional training have begun to show promise for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Available clinical trial data suggest that monotherapy with cognitive–emotional training using the Emotional Faces Memory Task is beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder. The aim of this study was to investigate whether Emotional Faces Memory Task training for major depressive disorder is associated with changes in brain connectivity and whether changes in connectivity parameters are related to symptomatic improvement. Methods: Fourteen major depressive disorder patients received Emotional Faces Memory Task training as monotherapy over a six-week period. Patients were scanned at baseline and posttreatment to identify changes in resting-state functional connectivity and effective connectivity during emotional working memory processing. Results: Compared to baseline, patients showed posttreatment reduced connectivity within resting-state networks involved in self-referential and salience processing and greater integration across the functional connectome at rest. Moreover, we observed a posttreatment increase in the Emotional Faces Memory Task-induced modulation of connectivity between cortical control and limbic brain regions, which was associated with clinical improvement. Discussion: These findings provide initial evidence that cognitive–emotional training may be associated with changes in short-term plasticity of brain networks implicated in major depressive disorder. Conclusion: Our findings pave the way for the principled design of large clinical and neuroimaging studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalChronic Stress
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • brain plasticity
  • cognitive training
  • digital therapeutic
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • major depressive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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