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Nervenarzt. 1998 Nov;69(11):968-74.

[Volumetric brain findings in late depression. A study with quantified magnetic resonance tomography].

[Article in German]

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Sektion Gerontopsychiatrie, Psychiatrische Universitätsklinik, Heidelberg.


A number of observations including clinical manifestation, course, outcome, and family history, support the view that patients presenting with a major depression occurring first in late life should be treated as a nosological subgroup. In this study quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to investigate volumes of different brain structures in 19 patients with late onset major depression (age of onset > 50) and 13 age matched controls. 3-D MRI sequences were acquired using a Siemens 1.5T scanner. Whole brain volume, CSF volume, volume of the frontal and temporal lobes and the volume of the amygdala-hippocampus complex were assessed using the software NMRWin. Compared to the controls, depressed patients showed a significantly lower whole brain volume and a significantly higher CSF volume, whereas volumes of the frontal and temporal lobes as well as the amygdala-hippocampus complex volumes were not significantly decreased. In addition, depressed patients exhibited a higher ventricle-brain ratio suggesting a higher degree of central atrophy compared to healthy individuals. Our results indicate that cerebral changes involving subcortical structures are of relevance in the pathogenesis of late-onset depression. Defining the aetiology of these lesions may be important for the development of preventive treatment of depression in the elderly.

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