Magnetic resonance imaging in late-life depression: Vascular and glucocorticoid cascade hypotheses

Claire E. Sexton, Marisa Le Masurier, Charlotte L. Allan, Mark Jenkinson, Lisa McDermott, Ukwuori G. Kalu, Lucie L. Herrmann, Kevin M. Bradley, Clare E. Mackay, Klaus P. Ebmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Late-life depression is a common and heterogeneous illness, associated with structural abnormalities in both grey and white matter. Aims: To examine the relationship between age at onset and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures of grey and white matter to establish whether they support particular hypotheses regarding the anatomy and aetiology of network disruption in late-life depression. Method: We studied 36 participants with late-life depression. Grey matter was examined using T1-weighted MRI and analysed using voxel-based morphometry. The hippocampus was automatically segmented and volume and shape analysis performed. White matter was examined using diffusion tensor imaging and analysed using tract-based spatial statistics. Results: Later age at onset was significantly associated with reduced fractional anisotropy of widespread tracts, in particular the anterior thalamic radiation and superior longitudinal fasciculus. Earlier age at onset was associated with reduced hippocampal volume normalised to whole brain size bilaterally. However, no significant correlations were detected using hippocampal shape analysis or voxel-based morphometry. Conclusions: Overall, the results were compatible with the vascular hypothesis, and provided some support for the glucocorticoid cascade hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-51
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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