Background: Previous neuroimaging studies in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have reported changes in several brain areas, such as the medial and dorsolateral orbital cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and basal ganglia. However, the results of these studies are inconsistent, and relatively few studies have been conducted using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to detect gray matter concentration (GMC) abnormalities in patients with MDD.
Methods: We examined 47 MDD patients and 51 healthy controls to investigate structural abnormalities using a 1.5 T magnetic resonance imaging system, which was normalized to a customized T1 template and segmented with optimized VBM. Analysis of covariance with age and gender as covariates was adopted for the VBM statistics; the level of statistical significance was set at P<0.05 for the corrected false discovery rate.
Results: Decreased GMC was found in MDD patients in the bilateral amygdalae, hippocampi, fusiform gyri, lingual gyri, insular gyri, middle-superior temporal gyri, thalami, cingulate gyri, the central lobule of the cerebellum, and the midbrain encompassing the dorsal raphe nuclei (DRN).
Limitations: Half of our study subjects were taking antidepressants. This may have been a potential confounding factor if any of the medications affected cortical volume.
Conclusions: The results suggest that the GMC of several regions associated with emotion regulation was lower in MDD patients. In particular, we found decreased GMC in the DRN. These findings may provide a better understanding of the anatomical properties of the neural mechanisms underlying the etiology of MDD.
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