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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Mar;42(4):876-885. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.180. Epub 2016 Sep 2.

Tissue Type-Specific Bioenergetic Abnormalities in Adults with Major Depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
The Brain Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.


Brain bioenergetic abnormalities have been observed frequently in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD); however, results have been inconsistent regarding whether decreased or increased metabolism was observed. Phosphorus-31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P MRS) allows for the quantification of bioenergetic molecules, containing high-energy phosphates, over the whole brain as well as measuring the differences between gray matter and white matter. We recruited 50 subjects with a current diagnosis of MDD, not currently treated with psychotropic medication, between ages of 18 and 65 (mean±SD age: 43.4±13.6; 46% female) and 30 healthy volunteers, matched for age and gender (39.0±12.5 years of age; 36.6% female). All subjects received a T1 MP-FLASH scan for tissue segmentation followed by 31P MRS, chemical shift imaging scan with 84 voxels of data collected over the entire brain utilizing a dual-tuned, proton-phosphorus coil to minimize subject movement. Phosphocreatine and inorganic phosphate (Pi) varied in opposite directions across gray matter and white matter when MDD subjects were compared with controls. This finding suggests alterations in high-energy phosphate metabolism and regulation of oxidative phosphorylation in MDD patients. In addition, within the MDD group, gray matter Pi, a regulator of oxidative phosphorylation, correlated positively with severity of depression. These data support a model that includes changes in brain bioenergetic function in subjects with major depression.

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