Cellular morphometry in late-life depression: a review of postmortem studies

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Feb;22(2):122-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Sep 5.


The impact of major depression in late life is considerable and set to intensify with a worldwide shift in demographic profile toward an elderly population. Although the precise neurobiological mechanisms are not fully understood, a significant body of clinical, epidemiological, and imaging data have suggested divergent pathophysiological pathways underlie depression in late life, when compared with younger patients. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated significant increases in white matter hyperintensities in late-life depression in several key areas involved in affective circuitry. Postmortem cellular morphometry studies have played a vital role in the identification of discrete changes in the brain microstructure in depression. This review draws together such postmortem studies, which have utilized tissue from younger/mixed age and late-life depressed patients. These findings have suggested varying neuronal and glial cell pathology in depression between different age cohorts. This age-related disparity may suggest different pathophysiological basis for depression, with vascular factors playing a potentially greater role in late life.

Keywords: Depression; disector; late life; morphometry; neuropathology; postmortem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroglia / pathology*
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neurons / pathology*