Is occipital bending a structural biomarker of risk for depression and sensitivity to treatment?

J Clin Neurosci. 2019 May;63:55-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2019.02.007. Epub 2019 Feb 28.


Occipital bending (OB) describes asymmetry of the occipital lobes where one lobe wraps across the midline, and has been associated with the presence of mood disorders. We evaluated the relationship between OB and major depressive disorder (MDD) in a large population of subjects from the International Study to Predict Optimized Treatment in Depression. MDD patients (n = 231) and healthy controls (n = 68) underwent MRI and neuropsychiatric evaluation, including response or remission to antidepressant medication at baseline and at 8 weeks. Cortical thickness, ventricular volumes and regional grey matter volumes were measured. OB was visually assessed and OB angle measured using a semi-automated method. Correlations with MDD diagnosis, MRI measures and clinical features were tested. Results demonstrated a greater proportion of rightwards OB in MDD compared to control subjects (p = 0.02). There was no difference in the total prevalence of OB (combined left and rightward bending) between MDD and controls. MDD subjects with right OB had greater cortical thickness in three medial occipital regions (cuneus, lingual gyrus and calcarine sulcus) on the left. Lateral ventricular size was 20% lower bilaterally in right OB MDD subjects compared to non-OB MDD subjects. OB was not associated with severity (HDRS-17). Our data suggest the presence of a strong link between greater rightward occipital bending and MDD. Rightward-OB is associated with greater left medial occipital cortical thickness, and with reduced lateral ventricular size. The cause for greater rightward bending in MDD patients is unclear, however our data suggest a developmental aetiology.

Keywords: Antidepressive agents; Gray matter; Humans; Magnetic resonance imaging; Occipital lobe; “Depressive Disorder, Major”.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occipital Lobe / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prognosis


  • Antidepressive Agents