Brain connectomic associations with traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic classification of major depressive disorder: A diffusion tensor imaging study

Lan Ying Liu, Xiao Pei Xu, Li Yuan Luo, Chun Qing Zhu, Ya Ping Li, Pei Rong Wang, Yuan Yuan Zhang, Chun Yu Yang, Hong Tao Hou, Yu Lin Cao, Gang Wang, Edward S. Hui, Zhang Jin Zhang (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is highly heterogeneous in pathogenesis and manifestations. Further classification may help characterize its heterogeneity. We previously have shown differential metabolomic profiles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diagnostic subtypes of MDD. We further determined brain connectomic associations with TCM subtypes of MDD. Methods: In this naturalistic study, 44 medication-free patients with a recurrent depressive episode were classified into liver qi stagnation (LQS, n = 26) and Heart and Spleen Deficiency (HSD, n = 18) subtypes according to TCM diagnosis. Healthy subjects (n = 28) were included as controls. Whole-brain white matter connectivity was analyzed on diffusion tensor imaging. Results: The LQS subtype showed significant differences in multiple network metrics of the angular gyrus, middle occipital gyrus, calcarine sulcus, and Heschl's gyrus compared to the other two groups. The HSD subtype had markedly greater regional connectivity of the insula, parahippocampal gyrus, and posterior cingulate gyrus than the other two groups, and microstructural abnormalities of the frontal medial orbital gyrus and middle temporal pole. The insular betweenness centrality was strongly inversely correlated with the severity of depression and dichotomized the two subtypes at the optimal cutoff value with acceptable sensitivity and specificity. Conclusions: The LQS subtype is mainly characterized by aberrant connectivity of the audiovisual perception-related temporal-occipital network, whereas the HSD subtype is more closely associated with hyperconnectivity and microstructural abnormalities of the limbic-paralimbic network. Insular connectivity may serve a biomarker for TCM-based classification of depression. Trial registration Registered at (NCT02346682) on January 27, 2015

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalChinese Medicine (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Classification
  • Connectome
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Traditional Chinese medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

Cite this