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Logo of jnnpsycJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and PsychiatryCurrent TOCInstructions for authors
 
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. Jan 2001; 70(1): 83–87.
PMCID: PMC1763463
A neuropathological study of vascular factors in late-life depression
A Thomas, I Ferrier, R Kalaria, R Perry, A Brown, and J O'Brien
Department of Psychiatry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. a.j.thomas/at/ncl.ac.uk
Abstract
OBJECTIVES—Depression is a common psychiatric disorder in late life and it may be associated with vascular disease processes. Although there are clinical and neuroimaging studies lending support to such a "vascular depression" hypothesis there have been no neuropathological studies to directly test this. Postmortem tissue was investigated to determine whether late life depression was associated with atheromatous change in large and medium vessels and microvascular disease in the brain.
METHODS—Postmortem tissue wae obtained from 20 patients with a history of at least one episode of DSM-IV major depression and 20 control subjects. Standard procedures were carried out to analyze and quantify Alzheimer type pathology (plaques, tangles, Braak staging) and cortical Lewy bodies. Coronary arteries, cerebral vessels, and aorta were rated for atheromatous disease on a 0-3 scale and the four neocortical areas were rated for microvascular disease.
RESULTS—The two groups showed no significant differences in age, sex, or postmortem delay. There was a significant increase in atheromatous disease in the depressed group (p=0.023). No differences were found for microvascular disease, either in the brain generally or locally in the frontal lobes. No subject had any significant Alzheimer type or Lewy body pathology.
CONCLUSIONS—Neuropathological evidence was found for an excess of atheromatous disease, related to the aortic and cerebral vessels, in late life depression. However, there was no evidence of an increase in microvascular disease. The findings broadly support the vascular depression hypothesis.

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