Major depression as a complex dynamic system

A.O.J. Cramer, Claudia D van Borkulo, Erik J Giltay, Han L. J. van der Maas, Kenneth S Kendler, Marten Scheffer, Denny Borsboom

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Abstract

In this paper, we characterize major depression (MD) as a complex dynamic system in which symptoms (e.g., insomnia and fatigue) are directly connected to one another in a network structure. We hypothesize that individuals can be characterized by their own network with unique architecture and resulting dynamics. With respect to architecture, we show that individuals vulnerable to developing MD are those with strong connections between symptoms: e.g., only one night of poor sleep suffices to make a particular person feel tired. Such vulnerable networks, when pushed by forces external to the system such as stress, are more likely to end up in a depressed state; whereas networks with weaker connections tend to remain in or return to a non-depressed state. We show this with a simulation in which we model the probability of a symptom becoming 'active' as a logistic function of the activity of its neighboring symptoms. Additionally, we show that this model potentially explains some well-known empirical phenomena such as spontaneous recovery as well as accommodates existing theories about the various subtypes of MD. To our knowledge, we offer the first intra-individual, symptom-based, process model with the potential to explain the pathogenesis and maintenance of major depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0167490
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Dynamical systems
Depression
Logistics
Fatigue of materials
Recovery
Maintenance
Sleep

Keywords

  • Journal Article

Cite this

Cramer, A. O. J., van Borkulo, C. D., Giltay, E. J., van der Maas, H. L. J., Kendler, K. S., Scheffer, M., & Borsboom, D. (2016). Major depression as a complex dynamic system. PLoS ONE, 11(12), [e0167490]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167490
Cramer, A.O.J. ; van Borkulo, Claudia D ; Giltay, Erik J ; van der Maas, Han L. J. ; Kendler, Kenneth S ; Scheffer, Marten ; Borsboom, Denny. / Major depression as a complex dynamic system. In: PLoS ONE. 2016 ; Vol. 11, No. 12.
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Cramer, AOJ, van Borkulo, CD, Giltay, EJ, van der Maas, HLJ, Kendler, KS, Scheffer, M & Borsboom, D 2016, 'Major depression as a complex dynamic system', PLoS ONE, vol. 11, no. 12, e0167490. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167490

Major depression as a complex dynamic system. / Cramer, A.O.J.; van Borkulo, Claudia D; Giltay, Erik J; van der Maas, Han L. J.; Kendler, Kenneth S; Scheffer, Marten; Borsboom, Denny.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 11, No. 12, e0167490, 2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Cramer AOJ, van Borkulo CD, Giltay EJ, van der Maas HLJ, Kendler KS, Scheffer M et al. Major depression as a complex dynamic system. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(12). e0167490. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167490