Microvascular changes in late-life schizophrenia and mood disorders: stereological assessment of capillary diameters in anterior cingulate cortex

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2012 Dec;38(7):696-709. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2990.2012.01263.x.


Aims: Previous neuroimaging reports described morphological and functional abnormalities in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in schizophrenia and mood disorders. In earlier neuropathological studies, microvascular changes that could affect brain perfusion in these disorders have rarely been studied. Here, we analysed morphological parameters of capillaries in this area in elderly cases affected by these psychiatric disorders.

Methods: We analysed microvessel diameters in the dorsal and subgenual parts of the ACC in eight patients with schizophrenia, 10 patients with sporadic bipolar disorder, eight patients with sporadic major depression, and seven age- and gender-matched control cases on sections stained with modified Gallyas silver impregnation using a stereological counting approach. All individuals were drug-naïve or had received psychotropic medication for less than 6 months, and had no history of substance abuse. Statistical analysis included Kruskal-Wallis group comparisons with Bonferroni correction as well as multivariate regression models.

Results: Mean capillary diameter was significantly decreased in the dorsal and subgenual parts of areas 24 in bipolar and unipolar depression cases, both in layers III and V, whereas schizophrenia patients were comparable with controls. These differences persisted when controlling for age, local neuronal densities, and cortical thickness. In addition, cortical thickness was significantly smaller in both layers in schizophrenia patients.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that capillary diameters in bipolar and unipolar depression but not in schizophrenia are reduced in ACC. The significance of these findings is discussed in the light of the cytoarchitecture, brain metabolism and perfusion changes observed in ACC in mood disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy / methods
  • Capillaries / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*