A magnetic resonance imaging study of white matter lesions in depression and Alzheimer's disease

John O'Brien, Patricia Desmond, David Ames, Isaac Schweitzer, Susan Harrigan, Brian Tress

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Background. White matter changes, as revealed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may occur in depression and Alzheimer's disease. Method. T2- weighted MRI scans were performed in 39 control subjects, 61 subjects with NINCDS/ADRDA Alzheimer's disease and 60 subjects with DSM-III-R major depression. Deep white matter lesions (DWML) and periventricular lesions (PVL) were rated on a standard 0-3 scale by two radiologists blind to clinical diagnosis. Results. After controlling for differences in vascular risk factors and current blood pressure, DWML were significantly more common in depressed subjects and PVL in Alzheimer's disease subjects compared to controls. DWML were most common in those presenting in late life with their first ever depression and 50% of such subjects had severe (grade 3) DWML. Conclusion. An association between DWML and depression and PVL and Alzheimer's disease is supported. The increase with DWML that occurs with ageing may predispose some elderly subjects to depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-485
Number of pages9
JournalThe British Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996
Externally publishedYes

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