Treatment of bipolar depression poses a significant clinical challenge. Lamotrigine is one of a few efficacious drugs, however, it needs to be titrated very slowly and response can only be assessed after 10–12 weeks. With only a proportion of patients responding, an exploration of factors underlying treatment responsivity is of paramount clinical importance, as it may lead to an allocation of the drug to those most likely to respond to it. This study aimed at identifying differences in patterns of pre-treatment resting state functional connectivity (rsFC) that may underlie response to lamotrigine in bipolar depression. After a baseline MRI scan, twenty-one patients with bipolar depression were treated with lamotrigine in an open-label design; response, defined as ≥50% decrease in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) score, was assessed after 10–12 weeks of treatment. Twenty healthy controls had a baseline clinical assessment and scan but did not receive any treatment. Fifteen out of 21 (71%) patients responded to lamotrigine. Treatment responsivity was associated with enhanced pre-treatment rsFC of the right fronto-parietal network (FPN) and dorsal attention network (DAN) with left precuneus. The lack of treatment response was additionally characterised by reduced rsFC: of the DAN with right middle temporal gyrus; of the default mode network (DMN) with left precuneus; of the extended sensory-motor area with areas including the left hippocampus/left amygdala and left subcallosal cortex/nucleus accumbens; and of the left FPN with left inferior temporal gyrus/occipital fusiform gyrus/lateral occipital cortex. The results suggest that preserved rsFC between the FPN and DAN, the networks involved in cognitive control, and the hub of the posterior DMN, the left precuneus, may be critical for good response to lamotrigine as an add-on treatment in patients with bipolar depression. The study also suggests a more general decrease in rsFC to be related to poor treatment responsivity.
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