A Network Control Theory Approach to Longitudinal Symptom Dynamics in Major Depressive Disorder

Tim Hahn, Hamidreza Jamalabadi, Daniel Emden, Janik Goltermann, Jan Ernsting, Nils R. Winter, Lukas Fisch, Ramona Leenings, Kelvin Sarink, Vincent Holstein, Marius Gruber, Dominik Grotegerd, Susanne Meinert, Katharina Dohm, Elisabeth J. Leehr, Maike Richter, Lisa Sindermann, Verena Enneking, Hannah Lemke, Stephanie Witt, Marcella Rietschel, Katharina Brosch, Julia-Katharina Pfarr, Tina Meller, Kai Gustav Ringwald, Simon Schmitt, Frederike Stein, Igor Nenadic, Tilo Kircher, Bertram Müller-Myhsok, Till F. M. Andlauer, Jonathan Repple, Udo Dannlowski, Nils Opel

Background: The evolution of symptoms over time is at the heart of understanding and treating mental disorders. However, a principled, quantitative framework explaining symptom dynamics remains elusive. Here, we propose a Network Control Theory of Psychopathology allowing us to formally derive a theoretical control energy which we hypothesize quantifies resistance to future symptom improvement in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). We test this hypothesis and investigate the relation to genetic and environmental risk as well as resilience. Methods: We modelled longitudinal symptom-network dynamics derived from N=2,059 Beck Depression Inventory measurements acquired over a median of 134 days in a sample of N=109 patients suffering from MDD. We quantified the theoretical energy required for each patient and time-point to reach a symptom-free state given individual symptom-network topology (E 0 ) and 1) tested if E 0 predicts future symptom improvement and 2) whether this relationship is moderated by Polygenic Risk Scores (PRS) of mental disorders, childhood maltreatment experience, and self-reported resilience. Outcomes: We show that E 0 indeed predicts symptom reduction at the next measurement and reveal that this coupling between E 0 and future symptom change increases with higher genetic risk and childhood maltreatment while it decreases with resilience. Interpretation: Our study provides a mechanistic framework capable of predicting future symptom improvement based on individual symptom-network topology and clarifies the role of genetic and environmental risk as well as resilience. Our control-theoretic framework makes testable, quantitative predictions for individual therapeutic response and provides a starting-point for the theory-driven design of personalized interventions. Funding: German Research Foundation and Interdisciplinary Centre for Clinical Research, M\"unster

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