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J Psychiatr Res. 1997 Jul-Aug;31(4):393-432.

The functional neuroanatomy of mood disorders.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA, USA.


Mood disorders may be associated with global and regional changes in cerebral blood flow and metabolism. The accumulated functional neuroimaging findings in mood disorders were reviewed in order to examine a proposed neuroanatomic model of pathophysiology. Global cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism appear normal, but may be decreased in late-life depression. Regional cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism deficits are present, and may be indicators of brain regions participating in neuroanatomic circuits involved in mood disorders. Decreased pre-frontal cortex blood flow and metabolism in depressed unipolar and bipolar patients are the most consistently replicated findings, and correlate with severity of illness. Basal ganglia abnormalities have been found in depressed unipolar and bipolar patients, involving decreased blood flow and metabolism. Temporal lobe abnormalities are present in bipolar disorder patients, and perhaps unipolar depression. There is conflicting evidence of abnormalities in other limbic regions. Cognitive impairment may correlate with decreased metabolism in frontal and cerebellar areas. The relationship between functional neuroimaging findings and clinical course, and therefore state and trait characteristics, has not been systematically investigated. Antidepressant medications, but not ECT, seem to reverse some of the identified functional brain changes in the depressed state. The structural, neurotransmitter and neuropathological correlates of these functional abnormalities are yet to be determined. Functional abnormalities in frontal, subcortical and limbic structures appear to be part of the pathophysiology of mood disorders.

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