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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Feb;39(3):770-9. doi: 10.1038/npp.2013.271. Epub 2013 Oct 4.

Association of depressive symptoms with hippocampal volume in 1936 adults.

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Department of Psychiatry, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA.
Department of Radiology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA.
Duke-NUS, Singapore, Singapore.


Hippocampal atrophy is reported in major depressive disorder (MDD). However, sample sizes were generally modest, and participant characteristics, including age, differed between studies. This study used a community sample to examine relationships between current depressive symptom severity and hippocampal volume across the adult lifespan. A total of 1936 adults with magnetic resonance images of the brain and Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology Self-Report (QIDS-SR) scores were included. Brain volumes were quantified using the FSL program. Multiple linear regressions were performed using left, right, and total hippocampal volume as criterion variables, and predictor variables of QIDS-SR total, total brain volume, age, gender, education, psychotropic medications, alcohol use, and race/ethnicity. Post hoc analyses were conducted in participants with QIDS-SR scores 11 (moderate or greater depressive symptom severity) and <11, and older and younger adults. In the primary analysis (sample as a whole) QIDS-SR was inversely associated with total hippocampal volume (b=-0.044, p=0.032, (CI-0.019 to -0.001)) but not with left or right hippocampal volume evaluated individually. In participants with QIDS-SR scores of <11, hippocampal volumes were not associated with QIDS-SR scores. In those with QIDS-SR scores 11 total, right, and left hippocampal volumes were modestly, but significantly, associated with QIDS-SR scores. The association between QIDS-SR scores and the hippocampal volume was much stronger in older persons. Findings suggest smaller hippocampal volumes among those with greater reported depressive symptom severity-an association that is strongest in people with at least moderate depressive symptom levels.

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