Changes in cortical thickness across the lifespan in major depressive disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2013 Dec 30;214(3):204-11. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.09.003. Epub 2013 Oct 4.


Neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of major depressive disorder (MDD) may differ depending on age-of-onset. Our aim was to compare patients who differ in age-of-onset, while controlling for illness duration, and number of depressive episodes. By directly comparing early-(EOD) and late-onset (LOD) patients, we examined whether age-of-onset is associated with changes in the extent or spatial pattern of cortical thickness. Cross-sectional comparison of cortical thickness in EOD vs. LOD. Age-of-onset was determined based on self-report, with EOD defined as onset prior to age 25. Reduced cortical thickness in the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), pre- and postcentral gyrus, and the lingual gyrus were found in EOD compared to healthy controls (p<0.001). In linear regression models controlling for number of episodes, illness duration, severity, and sex, differences (at p<0.001) were found between EOD and LOD in the bilateral posterior cingulate, parahippocampal gyri, right precuneus, lingual, and fusiform gyri, but not the DLPFC. EOD is associated with greater disturbances in cortical thickness than LOD, even when duration of illness and other factors are controlled. These results provide novel insights on how development of depression is differentiated by age.

Keywords: Age-of-onset; Brain structure; Magnetic resonance imaging; Mood disorders; Neurodevelopment.

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occipital Lobe / pathology
  • Parietal Lobe / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Young Adult