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Sci Rep. 2017 May 19;7(1):2200. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-02062-y.

Myelination of the brain in Major Depressive Disorder: An in vivo quantitative magnetic resonance imaging study.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA.
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA.
Neurosciences Program, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305, USA.


Evidence from post-mortem, genetic, neuroimaging, and non-human animal research suggests that Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is associated with abnormalities in brain myelin content. Brain regions implicated in this research, and in MDD more generally, include the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC), insula, subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). We examined whether MDD is characterized by reduced myelin at the whole-brain level and in NAcc, LPFC, insula, sgACC, and mPFC. Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI) permits the assessment of myelin content, in vivo, in the human brain through the measure of R1. In this study we used qMRI to measure R1 in 40 MDD and 40 healthy control (CTL) participants. We found that the MDD participants had lower levels of myelin than did the CTL participants at the whole-brain level and in the NAcc, and that myelin in the LPFC was reduced in MDD participants who had experienced a greater number of depressive episodes. Although further research is needed to elucidate the role of myelin in affecting emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and clinical aspects of MDD, the current study provides important new evidence that a fundamental property of brain composition, myelin, is altered in this disorder.

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