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A Pilot Study of Hippocampal Activity During a Verbal Memory Task in Depressed Young Adults

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Background: Hippocampal volume is reduced in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but the extent to which hippocampal function is altered in the context of MDD, particularly in young adults, is not well established. The hippocampus is important in recollection memory, a cognitive domain that is often impaired in depressed adults.

Objective: This pilot functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study aimed to assess hippocampal activity during a verbal memory task in unmedicated young adults with MDD (18-24 years of age) relative to healthy age-matched Controls.

Method: Brain activity was measured in hippocampal regions during verbal encoding and retrieval, and compared between groups (N=11 in each group); exploratory whole-brain assessments were also carried out.

Results: Greater right hippocampal activity during verbal memory encoding (vs. retrieval) was apparent in Controls. Further, in the MDD group, left hippocampal activity during encoding (vs. retrieval) was positively related to depression symptom severity and number of previous depressive episodes.

Conclusion: This pilot study is a stepping stone in examining the effect of depression on hippocampal function in young adults.
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Keywords: Depression; MDD; fMRI; hippocampus; memory; youth

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • Adolescent Psychiatry publishes reports of original research, critical reviews of topics relevant to practitioners, clinical observations with analysis and discussion, analysis of philosophical, ethical or social aspects of the fields of psychiatry and mental health, case reports with discussions, letters, and position papers. Adolescent Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, and the official journal of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, aims to provide mental health professionals who work with adolescents with current information relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.
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