Neuroimaging abnormalities in the subgenual prefrontal cortex: implications for the pathophysiology of familial mood disorders

Mol Psychiatry. 1998 May;3(3):220-6, 190-1. doi: 10.1038/


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) ventral to the genu of the corpus callosum has been implicated in the modulation of visceral responses to stressful and emotionally provocative stimuli, based upon analysis of lesion effects involving this area in humans and experimental animals. In a recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of familial mood disorders, we demonstrated that the mean grey matter volume of this cortex is abnormally reduced in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, irrespective of their treatment status or current mood state. Moreover, in preliminary histopathological assessments of subgenual PFC tissue taken post mortem from subjects with MDD and bipolar disorder we obtained results suggesting that this decrement in grey matter volume is associated with a reduction in glia without an equivalent loss of neurons. The potential functional significance of these neuroimaging and microscopic abnormalities is discussed with respect to evidence that subgenual PFC dysfunction may disturb stress-related autonomic and neuroendocrine responses and reward-related mesolimbic dopamine function. These data may thus hold important implications for the development of neural models of mood disorders that can account for the abnormal hedonic, motivational, neuroendocrine, and autonomic manifestations evident in these idiopathic conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / pathology*
  • Depression / diagnostic imaging*
  • Depression / genetics
  • Depression / pathology*
  • Family Health
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed