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Prospective longitudinal voxel-based morphometry study of major depressive disorder in young individuals at high familial risk

  • T. Nickson (a1), S. W. Y. Chan (a2), M. Papmeyer (a1) (a3), L. Romaniuk (a1), A. Macdonald (a1), T. Stewart (a1), S. Kielty (a1), S. M. Lawrie (a1), J. Hall (a1) (a4), J. E. Sussmann (a1), A. M. McIntosh (a1) (a5) and H. C. Whalley (a1)...

Abstract

Background

Previous neuroimaging studies indicate abnormalities in cortico-limbic circuitry in mood disorder. Here we employ prospective longitudinal voxel-based morphometry to examine the trajectory of these abnormalities during early stages of illness development.

Method

Unaffected individuals (16–25 years) at high and low familial risk of mood disorder underwent structural brain imaging on two occasions 2 years apart. Further clinical assessment was conducted 2 years after the second scan (time 3). Clinical outcome data at time 3 was used to categorize individuals: (i) healthy controls (‘low risk’, n = 48); (ii) high-risk individuals who remained well (HR well, n = 53); and (iii) high-risk individuals who developed a major depressive disorder (HR MDD, n = 30). Groups were compared using longitudinal voxel-based morphometry. We also examined whether progress to illness was associated with changes in other potential risk markers (personality traits, symptoms scores and baseline measures of childhood trauma), and whether any changes in brain structure could be indexed using these measures.

Results

Significant decreases in right amygdala grey matter were found in HR MDD v. controls (p = 0.001) and v. HR well (p = 0.005). This structural change was not related to measures of childhood trauma, symptom severity or measures of sub-diagnostic anxiety, neuroticism or extraversion, although cross-sectionally these measures significantly differentiated the groups at baseline.

Conclusions

These longitudinal findings implicate structural amygdala changes in the neurobiology of mood disorder. They also provide a potential biomarker for risk stratification capturing additional information beyond clinically ascertained measures.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Heather Whalley, Ph.D., Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Morningside Park, Edinburgh EH10 5HF, UK. (Email: heather.whalley@ed.ac.uk)

References

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