Anatomic evaluation of the orbitofrontal cortex in major depressive disorder
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BACKGROUND: The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) plays a major role in neuropsychologic functioning including exteroceptive and interoceptive information coding, reward-guided behavior, impulse control, and mood regulation. This study examined the OFC and its subdivisions in patients with MDD and matched healthy control subjects. METHODS: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed on 31 unmedicated MDD and 34 control subjects matched for age, gender, and race. Gray matter volumes of the OFC and its lateral and medial subdivisions were measured blindly. RESULTS: The MDD patients had smaller gray matter volumes in right medial [two-way analysis of covariance F(1,60) = 4.285; p =.043] and left lateral OFC [F(1,60) = 4.252; p =.044]. Left lateral OFC volume correlated negatively with age in patients but not in control subjects. Male, but not female patients exhibited smaller left and right medial OFC volumes compared with healthy control subjects of the same gender. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that patients with MDD have reduced OFC gray matter volumes. Although this reduction might be important in understanding the pathophysiology of MDD, its functional and psychopathologic consequences are as yet unclear. Future studies examining the relationship between specific symptomatic dimensions of MDD and OFC volumes could be especially informative.
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