Hippocampal volume and depression among young children

Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2019 Jun 30;288:21-28. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2019.04.012. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


Clinical depression can occur in young children as early as age three. This very early onset variant of depression shows the same clinical features with developmental adjustments as depression that onsets later in life. One robust neural feature of adult depression is reduced hippocampal volume. We measured hippocampal volume in a sample of 35 children aged 4-7 who were either in a clinical trial for preschool onset depression or were recruited from the community. We used T1 MPRAGE acquisitions on a Siemen's Scanner, with Freesurfer 5.3 used to segment the hippocampus. Depression was measured using the K-SADS early childhood (K-SADS-EC) to create a dimensional depression severity score and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) Depression T-Score. Multilevel models indicated that greater depression severity as measured by either the CBCL Depression Score or the K-SADS-EC was associated with lower hippocampal volume, even controlling for total gray matter, maternal depression, income-to-needs ratio, and stressful life events. These data indicate evidence for reduced hippocampal volume among children with PO-MDD who were more severely depressed. Findings are consistent with the idea that hippocampal volume reductions are an early occurring associated neural marker of MDD, particularly for more severe depression.

Keywords: Brain imaging; Hippocampus; Mood disorder; Pediatric; Preschool; Structural imaging; Volumetric.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Single-Blind Method