Subgenual prefrontal cortex volumes in major depressive disorder and schizophrenia: diagnostic specificity and prognostic implications

Am J Psychiatry. 2005 Sep;162(9):1706-12. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.162.9.1706.


Objective: A variety of findings have implicated the portion of the anterior cingulate cortex ventral to the corpus callosum in the pathophysiology of familial depressive disorder. There are, as yet, few data to address the specificity of these abnormalities to depressive disorders or to characterize their stability over time.

Method: The authors studied 10 subjects who were judged to have had major depressive disorder with psychotic features, who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocols, and who participated in a longitudinal study of recent-onset psychosis. These were group-matched to 10 subjects with schizophrenia and to 10 well comparison subjects. Volumetric measures were made of the posterior and anterior portions of the subgenual prefrontal cortex for these 30 subjects. Follow-up scans done an average of 4 years after intake were available for seven subjects with major depressive disorder, nine subjects with schizophrenia, and five well comparison subjects.

Results: Volumes of the left side of the posterior subgenual prefrontal cortex differed significantly by group and were smallest for the group with psychotic major depressive disorder. Volumes of the anterior subgenual prefrontal cortex did not differ significantly by group. Patients with major depressive disorder were more likely to show increases in posterior subgenual prefrontal cortex volume on follow-up than were comparison subjects or patients with schizophrenia.

Conclusions: These findings add to the evidence that abnormalities in the subgenual region of the anterior cingulate play a role in at least some types of mood disorder.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / pathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / pathology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology