Altered hippocampal morphology in unmedicated patients with major depressive illness

Carrie E. Bearden, Paul M. Thompson, Christina Avedissian, Andrea D. Klunder, Mark Nicoletti, Nicole Dierschke, Paolo Brambilla, Jair C. Soares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Despite converging evidence that major depressive illness is associated with both memory impairment and hippocampal pathology, findings vary widely across studies and it is not known whether these changes are regionally specific. In the present study we acquired brain MRIs (magnetic resonance images) from 31 unmedicated patients with MDD (major depressive disorder; mean age 39.2±11.9 years; 77% female) and 31 demographically comparable controls. Three-dimensional parametric mesh models were created to examine localized alterations of hippocampal morphology. Although global volumes did not differ between groups, statistical mapping results revealed that in MDD patients, more severe depressive symptoms were associated with greater left hippocampal atrophy, particularly in CA1 (cornu ammonis 1) subfields and the subiculum. However, previous treatment with atypical antipsychotics was associated with a trend towards larger left hippocampal volume. Our findings suggest effects of illness severity on hippocampal size, as well as a possible effect of past history of atypical antipsychotic treatment, which may reflect prolonged neuroprotective effects. This possibility awaits confirmation in longitudinal studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00020
Pages (from-to)265-273
Number of pages9
JournalASN Neuro
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Antipsychotic
  • Brain mapping
  • Hippocampus
  • Mood disorder
  • Neuroimaging
  • Subiculum
  • Unipolar depression


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