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CNS Spectr. 2002 Feb;7(2):129-30, 135-9.

Structural changes in the brain in depression and relationship to symptom recurrence.

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Department of Radiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA.


Depression is an important public health problem affecting about 15% of the general population; however, little is known about possible changes in the brain that might underlie the disorder. Neuroimaging has been a powerful tool to map actual changes in the brain structure of depressed patients that might be directly related to their symptoms of depression. Some imaging studies of brain structure have shown smaller hippocampal volume with the chronicity of depression correlating to a reduction in volume. Although the meaning of these findings is unclear, other studies have shown increased amygdala volume. Studies have found reductions in volume of the frontal cortex, with some studies showing specific reductions in subregions of the frontal cortex, including the orbitofrontal cortex. Findings of an increase in white matter lesions in elderly patients with depression have been replicated and correlated with late-onset depression, as well as impairments in social and cognitive function. These findings point to alterations in a circuit of brain regions hypothesized to include the frontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, striatum, and thalamus, that underlie symptoms of depression.

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