Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common mental illness with high lifetime prevalence close to 20%. Positron emission tomography (PET) studies have reported decreased prefrontal, insular and limbic cerebral glucose metabolism in depressed patients compared with healthy controls. However, the literature has not always been consistent. To evaluate current evidence from PET studies, we conducted a voxel-based meta-analysis of cerebral metabolism in MDD.
Method: Data were collected from databases including PubMed and Web of Science, with the last report up to April 2013. Voxel-based meta-analyses were performed using the revised activation likelihood estimation (ALE) software.
Results: Ten whole-brain-based FDG-PET studies in MDD were included in the meta-analysis, comprising 188 MDD patients and 169 healthy controls. ALE analyses showed the brain metabolism in bilateral insula, left lentiform nucleus putamen and extra-nuclear, right caudate and cingulate gyrus were significantly decreased. However, the brain activity in right thalamus pulvinar and declive of posterior lobe, left culmen of vermis in anterior lobe were significantly increased in MDD patients.
Conclusion: Our meta-analysis demonstrates the specific brain regions where possible dysfunctions are more consistently reported in MDD patients. Altered metabolism in insula, limbic system, basal ganglia, thalamus, and cerebellum and thus these regions are likely to play a key role in the pathophysiology of depression.