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Bipolar Disord. 2010 Aug;12(5):541-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5618.2010.00838.x.

Amygdala astrocyte reduction in subjects with major depressive disorder but not bipolar disorder.

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VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, West Los Angeles Healthcare Center, The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6968, USA.



Several magnetic resonance imaging studies have found changes in amygdala volumes in adults with mood disorders. The cellular basis for these changes has not been explored in detail. Specifically, it is not known whether differences in the density and/or volume of neurons or glial cells contribute to tissue volume changes seen on magnetic resonance images.


Postmortem amygdala samples were obtained from the Stanley Foundation Neuropathology Consortium from subjects diagnosed with bipolar disorder (n = 10), major depressive disorder (n = 11), and schizophrenia (n = 9), and from normal controls (n = 14). Samples were first stained with glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and counter-stained with hematoxylin to ascertain neuron and glia (astrocyte) densities.


No significant differences in neuronal densities were found between groups. However, a reduction in the density of GFAP immunoreactive astrocytes was observed in the amygdala of subjects with major depressive disorder compared to the bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and normal control postmortem samples.


A decrease in density of GFAP immunoreactive astrocytes in the amygdala of depressed subjects is consistent with prior histologic reports and might contribute to amygdala volume reductions reported in several in vivo neuroimaging studies.

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