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Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Apr;159(4):630-6.

Frontal white matter biochemical abnormalities in late-life major depression detected with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, USA.



Neuroanatomical abnormalities have been identified in patients with late-life mood disorders by using magnetic resonance imaging. This study examined the biochemical correlates of late-life major depression in the frontal gray and white matter by using single-voxel proton spectroscopy.


Twenty elderly patients with major depression and 18 comparison subjects similar in age and gender to the patients were scanned on a 1.5-T magnetic resonance scanner with head coil. Voxels were placed in the left dorsolateral white matter and bilaterally in the anterior cingulate gray matter. Absolute levels of N-acetylaspartate, choline, myo-inositol, and creatine were estimated with the LC-Model algorithm. Ratios of metabolite to creatine levels were computed from the absolute values.


myo-Inositol/creatine and choline/creatine ratios were significantly higher in the frontal white matter in the major depression group than in the comparison group. The groups had no significant differences in the metabolite ratios in the gray matter.


Biochemical changes in the white matter may provide some of the neurobiological substrates to late-life major depression.

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