A total of 20 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and a matched group of 20 healthy individuals participated. Participants underwent multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): fMRI during a spatial memory task, and structural MRI and resting blood flow measurements of the hippocampal region using arterial spin labelling. An offline battery of neuropsychological tests, including several measures of spatial memory, was also completed.
The fMRI analysis showed significant group differences in bilateral anterior regions of the hippocampus. While control participants showed task-dependent differences in blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal, depressed patients did not. No group differences were detected with regard to hippocampal volume or resting blood flow. Patients showed reduced performance in several offline neuropsychological measures. All group differences were independent of differences in hippocampal volume and hippocampal blood flow.
Functional abnormalities of the hippocampus can be observed in patients with MDD even when the volume and resting perfusion in the same region appear normal. This suggests that changes in hippocampal function can be observed independently of structural abnormalities of the hippocampus in depression.
- magnetic resonance imaging
- major depressive disorder
- spatial memory