Processing of emotional stimuli is reflected by modulations of beta band activity in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in patients with treatment resistant depression

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Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) has emerged as a new therapeutic option in patients with treatment resistant depression (TRD). At the same time, DBS offers a unique opportunity as an innovative research tool to study brain function in vivo. Indirect measures of brain function such as positron-emission-tomography imaging findings have revealed a hypermetabolism in the sgACC area in patients with TRD that normalizes in parallel with treatment response to DBS. We used direct intracranial recordings via implanted DBS electrodes to study the neuronal oscillatory activity in the sgACC area during a picture viewing task including emotional and neutral stimuli in eight patients with TRD who underwent DBS.

We found a stimulus-induced decrease in beta-band and increase in gamma-band activity, with a main effect of valence for event-related desynchronisation in the beta-frequency range (14–30 Hz). Unpleasant stimuli induced the strongest and most sustained beta-power decrease. The degree of beta-band modulation upon emotional stimuli correlated with the patients’ rating of stimulus valence. Our findings confirm the involvement of the sgACC area in emotional processing that was more enhanced for unpleasant stimuli. Moreover, stimulus evaluation may be encoded by modulations of beta-band activity.

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