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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013 Oct;52(10):1076-1091.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.07.008. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

Altered cerebral perfusion in executive, affective, and motor networks during adolescent depression.

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University of California-San Francisco.



Although substantial literature has reported regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) abnormalities in adults with depression, these studies commonly necessitated the injection of radioisotopes into subjects. The recent development of arterial spin labeling (ASL), however, allows noninvasive measurements of rCBF. Currently, no published ASL studies have examined cerebral perfusion in adolescents with depression. Thus, the aim of the present study was to examine baseline cerebral perfusion in adolescent depression using a newly developed ASL technique: pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling (PCASL).


A total of 25 medication-naive adolescents (13-17 years of age) diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and 26 well-matched control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging. Baseline rCBF was measured via a novel PCASL method that optimizes tagging efficiency.


Voxel-based whole brain analyses revealed significant frontal, limbic, paralimbic, and cingulate hypoperfusion in the group with depression (p < .05, corrected). Hyperperfusion was also observed within the subcallosal cingulate, putamen, and fusiform gyrus (p < .05, corrected). Similarly, region-of-interest analyses revealed amygdalar and insular hypoperfusion in the group with depression, as well as hyperperfusion in the putamen and superior insula (p < .05, corrected).


Adolescents with depression and healthy adolescents appear to differ on rCBF in executive, affective, and motor networks. Dysfunction in these regions may contribute to the cognitive, emotional, and psychomotor symptoms commonly present in adolescent depression. These findings point to possible biomarkers for adolescent depression that could inform early interventions and treatments, and establishes a methodology for using PCASL to noninvasively measure rCBF in clinical and healthy adolescent populations.


cerebral blood flow; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); major depressive disorder (MDD); pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling (PCASL)

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