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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptNIH Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
Biol Psychiatry. Author manuscript; available in PMC Aug 30, 2010.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2929806
NIHMSID: NIHMS224862

Cellular Changes in the Postmortem Hippocampus in Major Depression

Abstract

Background

Imaging studies report that hippocampal volume is decreased in major depressive disorder (MDD). A cellular basis for reduced hippocampal volume in MDD has not been identified.

Methods

Sections of right hippocampus were collected in 19 subjects with MDD and 21 normal control subjects. The density of pyramidal neurons, dentate granule cell neurons, glia, and the size of the neuronal somal area were measured in systematic, randomly placed three-dimensional optical disector counting boxes.

Results

In MDD, cryostat-cut hippocampal sections shrink in depth a significant 18% greater amount than in control subjects. The density of granule cells and glia in the dentate gyrus and pyramidal neurons and glia in all cornv ammonis (CA)/hippocampal subfields is significantly increased by 30% –35% in MDD. The average soma size of pyramidal neurons is significantly decreased in MDD.

Conclusion

In MDD, the packing density of glia, pyramidal neurons, and granule cell neurons is significantly increased in all hippocampal subfields and the dentate gyrus, and pyramidal neuron soma size is significantly decreased as well. It is suggested that a significant reduction in neuropil in MDD may account for decreased hippocampal volume detected by neuroimaging. In addition, differential shrinkage of frozen sections of the hippocampus suggests differential water content in hippocampus in MDD.

Keywords: Depression, glia, hippocampus, pyramidal neurons
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