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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cortical thickness in youth with major depressive disorder

Stephanie Reynolds12, Normand Carrey3, Natalia Jaworska12, Lisa Marie Langevin12, Xiao-Ru Yang12 and Frank P MacMaster12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary, Behavioral Research Unit, Alberta Children’s Hospital, 2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary, AB T3B 6A8, Canada

2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, Behavioral Research Unit, Alberta Children’s Hospital, 2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary, AB T3B 6A8, Canada

3 Department of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax NS, Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:83  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-83

Published: 20 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Studies in adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) have implicated dysregulation of frontal-limbic circuits in the symptomology of this disorder. We hypothesized that the middle frontal gyrus (MFG; a core portion of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or DLPFC) and the anterior cingulate (caudal), regions implicated in emotive and cognitive control, would display a reduced cortical thickness in youth with MDD as compared to healthy, non-depressed adolescents.

Methods

Sixteen healthy control adolescents (17.19 ± 1.87 years; 7 males, 9 females) and thirty MDD participants (16.89 ± 2.01 years; 9 males, 21 females) underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Cortical thickness analysis was carried out using FreeSurfer software.

Results

Counter to our hypothesis, we observed thicker right and left rostral MFG in MDD adolescents as compared to controls (p = 0.004 and p = 0.005, respectively). Furthermore, the left caudal anterior cingulate cortex was thicker in MDD subjects as compared to controls (p = 0.009). In MDD subjects, there was a significant inverse correlation between age and left MFG thickness (r = -0.45, p = 0.001).

Conclusions

These results have implications for the developmental trajectory of the frontal lobe in adolescent MDD. The MFG is implicated in the frontal-limbic circuits underlying executive functioning and their interaction with affective processing. Alterations in this region are likely involved with the symptoms of MDD. Limitations include a small sample size and cross sectional design.

Keywords:
Adolescence; Cortical thickness; Depression; Magnetic resonance imaging; Prefrontal cortex