Sonja Schöning

University of Münster, Muenster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

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Publications (21)81.02 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Major depressive disorder is a serious psychiatric illness with a highly variable and heterogeneous clinical course. Due to the lack of consistent data from previous studies, the study of morphometric changes in major depressive disorder is still a major point of research requiring additional studies. The aim of the study presented here was to characterize and quantify regional gray matter abnormalities in a large sample of clinically well-characterized patients with major depressive disorder.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(7):e102692. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cytokines such as interleukin 6 (IL-6) have been implicated in dual functions in neuropsychiatric disorders. Little is known about the genetic predisposition to neurodegenerative and neuroproliferative properties of cytokine genes. In this study the potential dual role of several IL-6 polymorphisms in brain morphology is investigated. In a large sample of healthy individuals (N = 303), associations between genetic variants of IL-6 (rs1800795; rs1800796, rs2069833, rs2069840) and brain volume (gray matter volume) were analyzed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Selection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) followed a tagging SNP approach (e.g., Stampa algorigthm), yielding a capture 97.08% of the variation in the IL-6 gene using four tagging SNPs.Principal findings/resultsIn a whole-brain analysis, the polymorphism rs1800795 (-174 C/G) showed a strong main effect of genotype (43 CC vs. 150 CG vs. 100 GG; x = 24, y = -10, z = -15; F(2,286) = 8.54, p(uncorrected) = 0.0002; p(AlphaSim-corrected) = 0.002; cluster size k = 577) within the right hippocampus head. Homozygous carriers of the G-allele had significantly larger hippocampus gray matter volumes compared to heterozygous subjects. None of the other investigated SNPs showed a significant association with grey matter volume in whole-brain analyses. These findings suggest a possible neuroprotective role of the G-allele of the SNP rs1800795 on hippocampal volumes. Studies on the role of this SNP in psychiatric populations and especially in those with an affected hippocampus (e.g., by maltreatment, stress) are warranted.
    Journal of Neuroinflammation 06/2012; 9:125. · 4.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α have been implicated in neurodegeneration relevant to various neuropsychiatric disorders. Little is known about the genetic predisposition to neurodegenerative properties of cytokine genes on brain function and on hippocampus (HC) function in particular. In this study we investigate the neurodegenerative role of TNF polymorphisms on brain morphology in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry was used in a large sample of healthy individuals (n = 303) to analyze the associations between genetic variants of TNF (rs1800629; rs361525) and brain morphology (gray matter concentration). In a region of interest analysis of the HC, for rs1800629, we observed a strong genotype effect on bilateral HC gray matter concentration. Carriers of one or two A-alleles had significantly smaller volumes compared with GG-homozygotes. For rs361525, a similar effect was observed at almost the same location, with the A-allele resulting in smaller HC volumes compared with GG homozygotes. The findings suggest a neurodegenerative role of the A-alleles of the TNF single nucleotide polymorphisms rs1800629 (-308G/A) and rs361525 (-238G/A) on hippocampal volumes in healthy individuals. Future imaging studies on the role of these single nucleotide polymorphisms in psychiatric populations of diseases with neurodegenerative components are warranted.
    Biological psychiatry 05/2012; 72(8):655-62. · 8.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dysfunction of dopamine D3 receptors, particularly in the mesocorticolimbic system, has been linked to the pathogenesis of major depression. Preclinical data show enhanced D3 receptor binding in the striatum upon antidepressant medication and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Thus, the potential impact of dopamine D3 receptor gene (DRD3) variation on ECT outcome in treatment-resistant major depression was evaluated by applying a combined molecular and imaging genetic approach. Altogether, 10 representative variants covering 95.4% of DRD3 gene variation were investigated for association with response to ECT in a sample of 104 (71 female, 33 male) Caucasian patients with pharmacorefractory major depression. Additionally, ventral striatum responsiveness to happy faces was assessed in two independent samples of depressed patients (total N=54) by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3 T. Significant association of DRD3 rs3732790, rs3773679 and rs9817063 variants with response (uncorrected p=0.02-0.03) and remission (uncorrected p=0.01) after ECT was discerned. Logistic regression analyses revealed association of rs3732790 (uncorrected p=0.009; corrected p=0.045) and rs3773679 (uncorrected p=0.009; corrected p=0.045) with remission when applying a recessive model of inheritance. The rs3732790T allele conferring a more favourable treatment response was furthermore found to be associated with stronger striatal responsiveness to happy facial expressions (sample 1: cluster-corrected p=0.002; sample 2: p=0.023). In summary, the present study suggests some impact of DRD3 gene variation on ECT response, potentially mediated by alteration of striatal engagement during the processing of emotionally rewarding stimuli.
    The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 11/2011; · 5.64 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fear conditioning involves the amygdala as the main neural structure for learning fear responses whereas fear extinction mainly activates the inhibitory prefrontal cortex (PFC). In this study we investigated whether individual differences in trait anxiety affect amygdala and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activation during fear conditioning and extinction. Thirty-two healthy subjects were investigated by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at 3 T while performing a cued fear-conditioning task. All participants completed the trait version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T). Activations of the amygdala and the dACC were examined with respect to the effects of trait anxiety. Analysis of the fMRI data demonstrated enhanced activation in fear-related brain areas, such as the insula and the ACC, during both fear conditioning and extinction. Activation of the amygdala appeared only during the late acquisition phase whereas deactivation was observed during extinction. Regression analyses revealed that highly trait-anxious subjects exhibited sustained amygdala activation and reduced dACC involvement during the extinction of conditioned responses. This study reveals that high levels of trait anxiety are associated with both increased amygdala activation and reduced dACC recruitment during the extinction of conditioned fear. This hyper-responsivity of the amygdala and the deficient cognitive control during the extinction of conditioned fear in anxious subjects reflect an increased resistance to extinct fear responses and may thereby enhance the vulnerability to developing anxiety disorders.
    Psychological Medicine 04/2011; 41(4):789-98. · 5.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A functional polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) has been reported to modulate amygdala responsiveness to negative environmental cues. However, it remains unclear whether 5-HTTLPR modulates amygdala responses specifically to negative stimuli or rather to emotionally salient stimuli in general. In 44 healthy subjects, amygdala responses to subliminally presented happy and sad facial expressions were assessed by means of fMRI at 3 Tesla. All subjects were genotyped for 5-HTTLPR and the recently discovered 5-HTT rs25531. We observed a robust emotion by genotype group interaction in the right amygdala. Risk allele carriers (S or L(G)) showed similar amygdala responses to happy faces compared to homozygous L(A)L(A) carriers but increased amygdala responses to sad faces. The right amygdala was the only anatomical region across the whole brain demonstrating this interaction at a reasonable threshold. It appears that whereas 5-HTT gene variation modulates automatic amygdala responsiveness to sad faces, no such association was found for happy faces. We conclude that 5-HTTLPR genotype predominantly impacts the central processing predominantly of negative environmental cues but not of emotionally salient stimuli in general.
    NeuroImage 12/2009; 53(3):893-8. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuropsychological abnormalities in transsexual patients have been reported in comparison with subjects without gender identity disorder (GID), suggesting differences in underlying neurobiological processes. However, these results have not consistently been confirmed. Furthermore, studies on cognitive effects of cross-sex hormone therapy also yield heterogeneous results. We hypothesized that untreated transsexual patients differ from men without GID in activation pattern associated with a mental rotation task and that these differences may further increase after commencing of hormonal treatment. The present study investigated 11 male-to-female transsexual (MFTS) patients prior to cross-sex hormone therapy and 11 MFTS patients during hormone therapy in comparison with healthy men without GID. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3-Tesla, a mental rotation paradigm with proven sexual dimorphism was applied to all subjects. Data were analyzed with SPM5. Patterns of brain activation associated with a mental rotation task. The classical mental rotation network was activated in all three groups, but significant differences within this network were observed. Men without GID exhibited significantly greater activation of the left parietal cortex (BA 40), a key region for mental rotation processes. Both transsexual groups revealed stronger activation of temporo-occipital regions in comparison with men without GID. Our results confirmed previously reported deviances of brain activation patterns in transsexual men from men without GID and also corroborated these findings in a group of transsexual patients receiving cross-sex hormone therapy. The present study indicates that there are a priori differences between men and transsexual patients caused by different neurobiological processes or task-solving strategies and that these differences remain stable over the course of hormonal treatment.
    Journal of Sexual Medicine 09/2009; 7(5):1858-67. · 3.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While neuropsychological impairments are well described in acute phases of major depressive disorders (MDD), little is known about the neuropsychological profile in remission. There is evidence for episodic memory impairments in both acute depressed and remitted patients with MDD. Learning and memory depend on individuals' ability to organize information during learning. This study investigates non-verbal memory functions in remitted MDD and whether nonverbal memory performance is mediated by organizational strategies whilst learning. 30 well-characterized fully remitted individuals with unipolar MDD and 30 healthy controls matching in age, sex and education were investigated. Non-verbal learning and memory were measured by the Rey-Osterrieth-Complex-Figure-Test (RCFT). The RCFT provides measures of planning, organizational skills, perceptual and non-verbal memory functions. For assessing the mediating effects of organizational strategies, we used the Savage Organizational Score. Compared to healthy controls, participants with remitted MDD showed more deficits in their non-verbal memory function. Moreover, participants with remitted MDD demonstrated difficulties in organizing non-verbal information appropriately during learning. In contrast, no impairments regarding visual-spatial functions in remitted MDD were observed. Except for one patient, all the others were taking psychopharmacological medication. The neuropsychological function was solely investigated in the remitted phase of MDD. Individuals with MDD in remission showed persistent non-verbal memory impairments, modulated by a deficient use of organizational strategies during encoding. Therefore, our results strongly argue for additional therapeutic interventions in order to improve these remaining deficits in cognitive function.
    Journal of affective disorders 09/2009; 122(1-2):144-8. · 3.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In acute depression a high prevalence of deficits in learning and memory performance has been reported. Still, it is unclear whether these cognitive deficits are present after remission of clinical symptoms of depression. The present study compared 20 inpatients recently remitted from severe major depressive disorder (MDD) with 20 healthy matched control participants on two sequence learning tasks: a modified serial reaction-time task (SRT) for implicit learning, which is sensitive to subcortical and frontal impairments, and a serial generation task (SGT) for explicit learning. As compared with performance in healthy controls, implicit and explicit learning were not impaired in recently remitted inpatients with depression. Intentional acquisition of new information was related to the severity of depressive symptoms as patients with higher scores on Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI) showed poorer explicit learning. In contrast to findings in acute depression, our results suggest a normal degree of learning in remitted depression; these findings are consistent with unimpaired fronto-striatal functioning. However, although not statistically significant, patients remitted from melancholic MDD revealed poorer implicit learning performance compared with patients remitted from non--melancholic MDD. Longitudinal studies in patients with melancholic vs. non-melancholic MDD are needed to investigate the course of cognitive functioning during the recovery from MDD.
    Psychiatry Research 09/2009; 169(1):1-6. · 2.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive theories of depression predict mood-congruent negative biases already at automatic stages of processing, although several behavioral studies seem to contradict this notion. That is, depression should potentiate emotional reactivity to negative emotional cues, whereas it should reduce reactivity in response to positive emotional stimuli. Assessing neurobiological substrates of automatic emotion processing might be a more sensitive challenge for automatic negative bias in depression than behavioral measures. In 30 acutely depressed inpatients and 26 healthy control subjects, automatic amygdala responses to happy and sad facial expressions were assessed by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at 3 Tesla. To examine automatic responses, a presentation paradigm using subliminal, backward-masked stimuli was employed. A detection task was administered to assess participants' awareness of the masked emotional faces presented in the fMRI experiment. Detection performance was at chance level for both patients and healthy control subjects, suggesting that the neurobiological reactions took place in absence of conscious awareness of the emotional stimuli. A robust emotion by group interaction was observed in the right amygdala. Whereas healthy control subjects demonstrated stronger responses to happy faces, depressed patients showed the opposite. Furthermore, amygdala responsiveness to happy facial expression was negatively correlated with current depression severity. Depressed patients exhibit potentiated amygdala reactivity to masked negative stimuli along with a reduced responsiveness to masked positive stimuli compared with healthy individuals. Thus, depression is characterized by mood-congruent processing of emotional stimuli in the amygdala already at an automatic level of processing.
    Biological psychiatry 09/2009; 67(2):155-60. · 8.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fear conditioning and extinction are basic forms of associative learning that have gained considerable clinical relevance in enhancing our understanding of anxiety disorders and facilitating their treatment. Modern neuroimaging techniques have significantly aided the identification of anatomical structures and networks involved in fear conditioning. On closer inspection, there is considerable variation in methodology and results between studies. This systematic review provides an overview of the current neuroimaging literature on fear conditioning and extinction on healthy subjects, taking into account methodological issues such as the conditioning paradigm. A Pubmed search, as of December 2008, was performed and supplemented by manual searches of bibliographies of key articles. Two independent reviewers made the final study selection and data extraction. A total of 46 studies on cued fear conditioning and/or extinction on healthy volunteers using positron emission tomography or functional magnetic resonance imaging were reviewed. The influence of specific experimental factors, such as contingency and timing parameters, assessment of conditioned responses, and characteristics of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli, on cerebral activation patterns was examined. Results were summarized descriptively. A network consisting of fear-related brain areas, such as amygdala, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex, is activated independently of design parameters. However, some neuroimaging studies do not report these findings in the presence of methodological heterogeneities. Furthermore, other brain areas are differentially activated, depending on specific design parameters. These include stronger hippocampal activation in trace conditioning and tactile stimulation. Furthermore, tactile unconditioned stimuli enhance activation of pain related, motor, and somatosensory areas. Differences concerning experimental factors may partly explain the variance between neuroimaging investigations on human fear conditioning and extinction and should, therefore, be taken into serious consideration in the planning and the interpretation of research projects.
    PLoS ONE 02/2009; 4(6):e5865. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: While cognitive impairments are well documented for the acute episode of major depressive disorder (MDD), less is known about cognitive functioning in the euthymic state. For working memory, dysfunctional activation of lateral prefrontal and cingulate cortex has been reported in the acute episode. This study investigates working-memory function and its neurobiological correlate in euthymic MDD patients, particularly whether dysfunctional activation persists when depressive symptoms improve. We investigated 56 subjects with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at 3 Tesla. To challenge working-memory function, a classical verbal n-back task (0-, 1-, and 2-back) was used in 28 well-characterized, euthymic, unipolar MDD patients and 28 healthy control subjects matched according to age, sex, and educational level. Data were analyzed using SPM5. In the absence of significant behavioral differences, we observed comparable overall patterns of brain activation in both groups. As expected, both groups showed stronger activation of the typical working-memory network with increasing memory load. However, significant hyperactivation of the cingulate cortex was observed in euthymic patients, while lateral prefrontal activation was comparable between patients and controls. Working-memory challenge in the euthymic state of MDD revealed a dissociation of lateral prefrontal and cingulate brain function. Cingulate function, which is important for both emotional and cognitive processing and their integration, is still abnormal when mood is restored. This could reflect a different speed of normalization in prefrontal and limbic cortices, persistent systematic changes in neuronal networks after an episode of MDD, or a compensatory mechanism to maintain working-memory performance.
    Human Brain Mapping 01/2009; 30(9):2746-56. · 6.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The default-mode network (DMN) is a functional network with increasing relevance for psychiatric research, characterized by increased activation at rest and decreased activation during task performance. The degree of DMN deactivation during a cognitively demanding task depends on its difficulty. However, the relation of hemodynamic responses in the resting phase after a preceding cognitive challenge remains relatively unexplored. We test the hypothesis that the degree of activation of the DMN following cognitive challenge is influenced by the cognitive load of a preceding working-memory task. Twenty-five healthy subjects were investigated with functional MRI at 3 Tesla while performing a working-memory task with embedded short resting phases. Data were decomposed into statistically independent spatio-temporal components using Tensor Independent Component Analysis (TICA). The DMN was selected using a template-matching procedure. The spatial map contained rest-related activations in the medial frontal cortex, ventral anterior and posterior cingulate cortex. The time course of the DMN revealed increased activation at rest after 1-back and 2-back blocks compared to the activation after a 0-back block. We present evidence that a cognitively challenging working-memory task is followed by greater activation of the DMN than a simple letter-matching task. This might be interpreted as a functional correlate of self-evaluation and reflection of the preceding task or as relocation of cerebral resources representing recovery from high cognitive demands. This finding is highly relevant for neuroimaging studies which include resting phases in cognitive tasks as stable baseline conditions. Further studies investigating the DMN should take possible interactions of tasks and subsequent resting phases into account.
    PLoS ONE 01/2009; 4(9):e7198. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study examines the neurobiology of semantic retrieval and describes the influence of gender, menstrual cycle, and sex hormones on semantic networks. Healthy right-handed subjects (12 men, 12 women) were investigated with 3T-fMRI during synonym generation. Behavioral performance and sex hormone levels were assessed. Women were examined during the early follicular and midluteal cycle phase. The activation pattern in all groups involved left frontal and temporal as well as bilateral medial frontal, cingulate, occipital, basal ganglia, and cerebellar regions. Men showed greater left frontal activation than women in both menstrual cycle phases. Women yielded high correlations of left prefrontal activation with estradiol in the midluteal phase and with progesterone in both phases. Testosterone levels correlated highly with left prefrontal activation in all three groups. In all, we describe a cerebral network involved in semantic processing and demonstrate that it is significantly affected by gender and sex steroid hormones.
    Journal of Neural Transmission 07/2008; 115(9):1327-37. · 3.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The amygdala plays a pivotal role in a cortico-limbic circuitry implicated in emotion processing and regulation. In the present study, functional connectivity of the amygdala with prefrontal areas involved in emotion regulation was investigated during a facial expression processing task in a sample of 34 depressed inpatients and 31 healthy controls. All patients were genotyped for a common functional variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) polymorphism in the promoter region of the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA u-VNTR) which has been previously associated with major depression as well as reduced cortico-limbic connectivity in healthy subjects. In our control group, we observed tight coupling of the amygdala and dorsal prefrontal areas comprising the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), dorsal parts of the anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), and lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Amygdala-prefrontal connectivity was significantly reduced in depressed patients and carriers of the higher active MAOA risk alleles (MAOA-H). Hence, depressed MAOA-H carriers showed the weakest amygdala-prefrontal coupling of the investigated subgroups. Furthermore, reduced coupling of this circuitry predicted more than 40% variance of clinical variables characterizing a longer and more severe course of disease. We conclude that genetic variation in the MAOA gene may affect the course of major depression by disrupting cortico-limbic connectivity.
    The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 07/2008; 12(1):11-22. · 5.64 Impact Factor
  • Frontiers in Human Neuroscience - FRONT HUM NEUROSCI. 01/2008;
  • Klinische Neurophysiologie 01/2008; 39(01):A206. · 0.33 Impact Factor
  • Sonja Schöning
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    ABSTRACT: Diese Dissertation untersucht in zwei Studien mittels fMRT a) den Einfluss von Geschlecht und Sexualhormonen auf die Fähigkeit, mental Objekte im visuell-räumlichen Arbeitsgedächtnis zu rotieren und b) die Bedeutung klinisch relevanter Depression für eine verbale Arbeitsgedächtnisaufgabe. Die erste Studie zeigt, dass die neuronalen Netzwerke für die mentale Rotationsaufgabe bei Frauen und Männern zwar qualitativ sehr ähnlich ausgeprägt sind, es jedoch innerhalb dieses Netzwerkes signifikante Unterschiede zwischen Männern und Frauen in Abhängigkeit von der Zyklusphase gibt. Die zweite Studie findet bei remittierten, unipolar depressiven Patienten auch nach Abklingen der affektiven Symptomatik eine abnorme Aktivierung des cingulären Cortex. Zusammenfassend wird gezeigt, dass kognitive Funktionsbereiche, insbesondere das verbale und visuell-räumliche Arbeitsgedächtnis, durch Faktoren wie Geschlecht und hormonelle Einflüsse sowie durch affektive Erkrankungen beeinflusst werden können.
    01/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: Recent observations indicate that sex and level of steroid hormones may influence cortical networks associated with specific cognitive functions, in particular visuo-spatial abilities. The present study probed the influence of sex, menstrual cycle, and sex steroid hormones on 3D mental rotation and brain function using 3-T fMRI. Twelve healthy women and 12 men were investigated. Menstrual cycle and hormone levels were assessed. The early follicular and midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle were chosen to examine short-term cyclical changes. Parietal and frontal areas were activated during mental rotation in both sexes. Significant differences between men and women were revealed in both phases of menstrual cycle. In men we observed a significant correlation of activation levels with testosterone levels in the left parietal lobe (BA 40). In women, a cycle-dependent correlation pattern was observed for testosterone: brain activation correlated with this male hormone only during the early follicular phase. In both cycle phases females' brain activation was significantly correlated with estradiol in frontal and parietal areas. Our study provides evidence that fMRI-related activity during performance of cognitive tasks varies across sex and phases of the menstrual cycle. The variation might be partly explained by better task performance in men, but our results indicate that further explanations like basic neuronal or neurovascular effects modulated by steroid hormones must be considered. Both estradiol and testosterone levels may influence fMRI signals of cognitive tasks, which should affect selection of subjects for future fMRI studies.
    Neuropsychologia 12/2007; 45(14):3203-14. · 3.48 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

573 Citations
81.02 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007–2014
    • University of Münster
      • Department of Psychiatry
      Muenster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • 2012
    • University of Adelaide
      • Discipline of Medicine
      Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  • 2009
    • Universitätsklinikum Münster
      Muenster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany