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Structural brain abnormalities in unselected in-patients with major depression

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Objective: Several studies have indicated an increased frequency of cerebral atrophy and white matter lesions in patients with major depression, especially in older age groups.

Method: Forty-four representative in-patients with major depression in which neurological disorders were clinically excluded, and 49 age- and gender-matched controls were MR scanned.

Results: Unexpectedly, two of the patients had severe brain pathology which could account for their psychiatric symptoms. Analysis of the remaining patients (mean age 42 years) did not reveal an increased frequency of cerebral atrophy. The number of white matter lesions increased with age to an odds ratio greater than 3 for patients aged 50, but this was not statistically significant.

Conclusion: Brain atrophy and white matter lesions did not occur with significantly increased frequency in these relatively young unselected depressives, but the finding of severe brain pathology stresses the importance of brain imaging in late-onset psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: affective disorders; brain/pathology; depressive disorder; magnetic resonance imaging

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Basic Psychiatric Research, Department of Biological Psychiatry, Psychiatric Hospital, Aarhus University Hospitals, 2: The MR-Center, Skejby Hospital, Aarhus University Hospitals, 3: Department B, 4: Department C, 5: Department A, Psychiatric Hospital, Aarhus University Hospitals, Risskov, Denmark

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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