Background: Whether or not cognitive impairment and brain structure changes are trait characteristics of late-life depression is still disputed. Previous studies led to conflicting data possibly because of the difference in the age of depression onset. In fact, several lines of evidence suggest that late-onset depression (LOD) is more frequently associated with neuropsychological deficits and brain pathology than early-onset depression (EOD). To date, no study explored concomitantly the cognitive profile and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patterns in euthymic EOD and LOD patients.
Method: Using a cross-sectional design, 41 remitted outpatients (30 with EOD and 11 with LOD) were compared to 30 healthy controls. Neuropsychological evaluation concerned working memory, episodic memory, processing speed, naming capacity and executive functions. Volumetric estimates of the amygdala, hippocampus, entorhinal and anterior cingulate cortex were obtained using both voxel-based and region of interest morphometric methods. White matter hyperintensities were assessed semiquantitatively.
Results: Both cognitive performance and brain volumes were preserved in euthymic EOD patients whereas LOD patients showed a significant reduction of episodic memory capacity and a higher rate of periventricular hyperintensities compared to both controls and EOD patients.
Conclusion: Our results support the dissociation between EOD thought to be mainly related to psychosocial factors and LOD that is characterized by increasing vascular burden and episodic memory decline.
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