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A multisample, multimethod study of brain connectivity mechanisms linking pubertal development and depression in adolescence
Earlier pubertal timing is associated with depression risk (Keenan et al., 2014) and white matter alterations in adolescence (Chahal et al., 2018). Pubertal course may impact functional (FC) and structural (SC) connectivity of emotion regulatory regions, contributing to depression. We examined associations between pubertal timing, connectivity, and depressive symptoms in two longitudinal cohorts. In Study 1 (68 boys and girls from the California Families Project) and Study 2 (107 girls from the Pittsburgh Girls Study), pubertal development and depression symptoms were assessed annually (age 10-16/19). Resting fMRI was collected in Study 1 (age 16), and diffusion MRI in Study 2 (age 19). Pubertal timing/tempo and depressive intercept and slope were estimated via growth modeling. Moderation of connectivity on the association between puberty and depression was tested. Earlier pubertal timing was associated with higher initial depressive severity, and later timing with higher depressive slope (ps<.05). Overlapping frontal-subcortical regions showed higher SC and FC with earlier pubertal timing and depression in both studies. Node strength of affective regions (e.g., insula) moderated the puberty-depression link. Results indicate that off-time pubertal maturation is associated with depression course and brain connectivity in adolescence. Examining connectivity offers insight into who shows puberty-related risk for depression.