An investigation of emotion dynamics in major depressive disorder patients and healthy persons using sparse longitudinal networks

Stijn de Vos, Klaas J. Wardenaar*, Elisabeth H. Bos, Ernst C. Wit, Mara E. J. Bouwmans, Peter de Jonge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Differences in within-person emotion dynamics may be an important source of heterogeneity in depression. To investigate these dynamics, researchers have previously combined multilevel regression analyses with network representations. However, sparse network methods, specifically developed for longitudinal network analyses, have not been applied. Therefore, this study used this approach to investigate population-level and individual-level emotion dynamics in healthy and depressed persons and compared this method with the multilevel approach.

METHODS: Time-series data were collected in pair-matched healthy persons and major depressive disorder (MDD) patients (n = 54). Seven positive affect (PA) and seven negative affect (NA) items were administered electronically at 90 times (30 days; thrice per day). The population-level (healthy vs. MDD) and individual-level time series were analyzed using a sparse longitudinal network model based on vector autoregression. The population-level model was also estimated with a multilevel approach. Effects of different preprocessing steps were evaluated as well. The characteristics of the longitudinal networks were investigated to gain insight into the emotion dynamics.

RESULTS: In the population-level networks, longitudinal network connectivity was strongest in the healthy group, with nodes showing more and stronger longitudinal associations with each other. Individually estimated networks varied strongly across individuals. Individual variations in network connectivity were unrelated to baseline characteristics (depression status, neuroticism, severity). A multilevel approach applied to the same data showed higher connectivity in the MDD group, which seemed partly related to the preprocessing approach.

CONCLUSIONS: The sparse network approach can be useful for the estimation of networks with multiple nodes, where overparameterization is an issue, and for individual-level networks. However, its current inability to model random effects makes it less useful as a population-level approach in case of large heterogeneity. Different preprocessing strategies appeared to strongly influence the results, complicating inferences about network density.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0178586
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1-Jun-2017



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