Seasonality and pituitary volume

Psychiatry Res. 1997 Jul 4;74(3):151-7. doi: 10.1016/s0925-4927(97)00015-2.


Pituitary volume in humans has been reported to change size in response to experimental manipulations of photoperiod, and to be increased during an episode of non-seasonal major depression. We wanted to determine whether pituitary volume changes either across the seasons or during an episode of winter depression. Nineteen patients with winter-seasonal affective disorder and 19 sex-, age-, height-, and weight-matched controls underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the pituitary gland in both winter and summer. Images were obtained using 0.7-mm contiguous slices and the areas of all slices were summed to compute the final volume for each gland. We found no main effects or interactions involving either diagnosis or season in our primary analysis. In a post-hoc analysis, we found a trend towards a season x gender effect (P = 0.06), such that pituitary volume increased slightly (+4.0%) across seasons in women, whereas it decreased slightly (-4.3%) across seasons in men. The results suggest that neither winter depression nor the change of seasons is associated with a significant change in pituitary size.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Photoperiod
  • Pituitary Gland / anatomy & histology*
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / pathology
  • Seasons*
  • Sex Factors