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Evidence for structural hippocampal change in depression is limited despite reports of neuronal damage due to hypercortisolaemia and vascular pathology.
To compare hippocampal and white matter structural change in demographically matched controls and participants with early-onset and late-onset depression.
High-resolution volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and rating of MRI hyperintensities.
A total of 51 people with depression and 39 control participants were included. Participants with late-onset depression had bilateral hippocampal atrophy compared with those with early-onset depression and controls. Hippocampal volumes did not differ between control participants and those with early-onset depression. Age of depression onset correlated (negatively) with hippocampal volume but lifetime duration of depression did not. Hyperintensity ratings did not differ between groups.
Results suggest that acquired biological factors are of greater importance in late-than in early-onset illness and that pathological processes other than exposure to hypercortisolaemia of depression underlie hippocampal atrophy in depression of late life.
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