The large majority of structural MRI studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) investigated volumetric changes in chronic medicated patients in whom course of illness and treatment effects may impact anatomic measurements. Further, in few studies, separate measurements of cortical thickness and surface area have been performed that reflect different neurobiological processes regulated by different genetic mechanisms. In the present study, we investigated both cortical thickness and surface area in first-episode, treatment- naïve, mid-life MDD to elucidate the core pathophysiology of this disease and its early impact on the brain. We observed increased cortical thickness in the right hemisphere, including medial orbitofrontal gyrus, pars opercularis, rostral middle frontal gyrus and supramarginal gyrus. Increased thickness of rostral middle frontal gyrus was negatively related with depression severity on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Furthermore, MDD patients showed significantly increased associations in cortical thickness measurements among areas where increased cortical thickness was observed. Analysis of pial area revealed a trend toward increased surface area in the left parahippocampal gyrus in MDD. To permit comparison of our data with those of previous gray matter volume studies, voxel-based morphometry was performed. That analysis revealed significantly increased gray matter volume in left paracentral lobule, left superior frontal gyrus, bilateral cuneus and thalamus which form limbic-cortico-striato-pallido-thalamic loops. These changes in first-episode, treatment-naïve, mid-life MDD patients may reflect an active illness-related cortical change close to illness onset, and thus potentially provide important new insight into the early neurobiology of the disorder.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry