Smaller Cingulate Volumes in Unipolar Depressed Patients
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BACKGROUND: The anterior cingulate cortex is a key structure in brain networks involved in mood regulation. Abnormalities in this brain region are possibly implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. This anatomical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study compared cingulate cortex volumes in unipolar depressed patients and age- and gender-matched healthy control subjects. METHODS: Thirty-one unmedicated DSM-IV unipolar patients (24 female, aged 39.2 +/- 11.9 years [mean +/- SD]) and 31 healthy control subjects (24 female, aged 36.7 +/- 10.7 years) were studied in a 1.5-T GE Signa magnet (General Electric Medical Systems, Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Cingulate volumes were compared by analysis of covariance with intracranial volume as the covariate. RESULTS: The unipolar patients had significantly smaller anterior and posterior cingulate volumes bilaterally compared with healthy control subjects. When patients were divided into currently depressed (n = 21) and remitted (n = 10) subgroups, currently depressed patients had significantly smaller anterior and posterior cingulate volumes bilaterally compared with healthy control subjects, whereas remitted patients had significantly smaller left anterior cingulate volumes compared with healthy individuals. CONCLUSIONS: Gray matter abnormalities in the cingulate cortex are implicated in the pathophysiology of unipolar depression. Smaller cingulate volumes in currently depressed patients support the hypothesis that cingulate cortex abnormalities are state dependent, whereas changes in left anterior cingulate might be trait related.
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