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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2006 Feb;113(2):255-68. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Basal ganglia volumetric studies in affective disorder: what did we learn in the last 15 years?

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University Clinic of Psychiatry, Graz Medical University, Graz, Austria.


Until today, morphometric neuroimaging studies on affective disorders concentrate on the limbic system, especially the hippocampus, amygdala, and anterior cingulate. In most of the studies and reviews available today, the basal ganglia are of secondary interest. It seems that the basal ganglia are interest of neurologist, whereas the limbic system is reserved for psychiatric neuroimaging studies. We follow a different approach in this review, studying all available papers on MRI research of the basal ganglia in unipolar depression and bipolar disorder. We found a possibly larger neostriatum in bipolar and possibly smaller one in unipolar patients. None of the unipolar studies found any larger basal ganglion, and only one out of 12 bipolar studies found smaller basal ganglia. Both findings seemed to depend on age (tendency toward smaller volumes in unipolar and bipolar with older age), sex (men tending to pathology in both disorders) and bipolar patients show a possible influence of medication, which is not assessed so far in unipolar depression. We conclude that several methodological shortcomings in volumetric MRI research on the basal ganglia in affective disorders make it necessary to imply more research in this area. We suggest (a) better MRI methods (we do not have a single volumetric 3 Tesla study in this patient group); (b) studies of medication-naïve patients (thus ruling out the medication effect); (c) Studies that directly compare unipolar depressed and bipolar patients are needed to determine whether these apparent differences in morphometric abnormalities, as observed through the mediating comparison with healthy subjects, are real.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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