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1.  Biventricular Pacing (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy) 
Executive Summary
In 2002, (before the establishment of the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee), the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a health technology policy assessment on biventricular (BiV) pacing, also called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). The goal of treatment with BiV pacing is to improve cardiac output for people in heart failure (HF) with conduction defect on ECG (wide QRS interval) by synchronizing ventricular contraction. The Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that there was evidence of short (6 months) and longer-term (12 months) effectiveness in terms of cardiac function and quality of life (QoL). More recently, a hospital submitted an application to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee to review CRT, and the Medical Advisory Secretariat subsequently updated its health technology assessment.
Chronic HF results from any structural or functional cardiac disorder that impairs the ability of the heart to act as a pump. It is estimated that 1% to 5% of the general population (all ages) in Europe have chronic HF. (1;2) About one-half of the patients with HF are women, and about 40% of men and 60% of women with this condition are aged older than 75 years.
The incidence (i.e., the number of new cases in a specified period) of chronic HF is age dependent: from 1 to 5 per 1,000 people each year in the total population, to as high as 30 to 40 per 1,000 people each year in those aged 75 years and older. Hence, in an aging society, the prevalence (i.e., the number of people with a given disease or condition at any time) of HF is increasing, despite a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.
A recent study revealed 28,702 patients were hospitalized for first-time HF in Ontario between April 1994 and March 1997. (3) Women comprised 51% of the cohort. Eighty-five percent were aged 65 years or older, and 58% were aged 75 years or older.
Patients with chronic HF experience shortness of breath, a limited capacity for exercise, high rates of hospitalization and rehospitalization, and die prematurely. (2;4) The New York Heart Association (NYHA) has provided a commonly used functional classification for the severity of HF (2;5):
Class I: No limitation of physical activity. No symptoms with ordinary exertion.
Class II: Slight limitations of physical activity. Ordinary activity causes symptoms.
Class III: Marked limitation of physical activity. Less than ordinary activity causes symptoms. Asymptomatic at rest.
Class IV: Inability to carry out any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms at rest.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates that 35% of patients with HF are in functional NYHA class I; 35% are in class II; 25%, class III; and 5%, class IV. (5) Surveys (2) suggest that from 5% to 15% of patients with HF have persistent severe symptoms, and that the remainder of patients with HF is evenly divided between those with mild and moderately severe symptoms.
Overall, patients with chronic, stable HF have an annual mortality rate of about 10%. (2) One-third of patients with new-onset HF will die within 6 months of diagnosis. These patients do not survive to enter the pool of those with “chronic” HF. About 60% of patients with incident HF will die within 3 years, and there is limited evidence that the overall prognosis has improved in the last 15 years.
To date, the diagnosis and management of chronic HF has concentrated on patients with the clinical syndrome of HF accompanied by severe left ventricular systolic dysfunction. Major changes in treatment have resulted from a better understanding of the pathophysiology of HF and the results of large clinical trials. Treatment for chronic HF includes lifestyle management, drugs, cardiac surgery, or implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. Despite pharmacologic advances, which include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, beta-blockers, spironolactone, and digoxin, many patients remain symptomatic on maximally tolerated doses.
The Technology
Owing to the limitations of drug therapy, cardiac transplantation and device therapies have been used to try to improve QoL and survival of patients with chronic HF. Ventricular pacing is an emerging treatment option for patients with severe HF that does not respond well to medical therapy. Traditionally, indications for pacing include bradyarrhythmia, sick sinus syndrome, atrioventricular block, and other indications, including combined sick sinus syndrome with atrioventricular block and neurocardiogenic syncope. Recently, BiV pacing as a new, adjuvant therapy for patients with chronic HF and mechanical dyssynchrony has been investigated. Ventricular dysfunction is a sign of HF; and, if associated with severe intraventricular conduction delay, it can cause dyssynchronous ventricular contractions resulting in decreased ventricular filling. The therapeutic intent is to activate both ventricles simultaneously, thereby improving the mechanical efficiency of the ventricles.
About 30% of patients with chronic HF have intraventricular conduction defects. (6) These conduction abnormalities progress over time and lead to discoordinated contraction of an already hemodynamically compromised ventricle. Intraventricular conduction delay has been associated with clinical instability and an increased risk of death in patients with HF. (7) Hence, BiV pacing, which involves pacing left and right ventricles simultaneously, may provide a more coordinated pattern of ventricular contraction and thereby potentially reduce QRS duration, and intraventricular and interventricular asynchrony. People with advanced chronic HF, a wide QRS complex (i.e., the portion of the electrocardiogram comprising the Q, R, and S waves, together representing ventricular depolarization), low left ventricular ejection fraction and contraction dyssynchrony in a viable myocardium and normal sinus rhythm, are the target patients group for BiV pacing. One-half of all deaths in HF patients are sudden, and the mode of death is arrhythmic in most cases. Internal cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) combined with BiV pacemakers are therefore being increasingly considered for patients with HF who are at high risk of sudden death.
Current Implantation Technique for Cardiac Resynchronization
Conventional dual-chamber pacemakers have only 2 leads: 1 placed in the right atrium and the other in the right ventricle. The technique used for BiV pacemaker implantation also uses right atrial and ventricular pacing leads, in addition to a left ventricle lead advanced through the coronary sinus into a vein that runs along the ventricular free wall. This permits simultaneous pacing of both ventricles to allow resynchronization of the left ventricle septum and free wall.
Mode of Operation
Permanent pacing systems consist of an implantable pulse generator that contains a battery and electronic circuitry, together with 1 (single-chamber pacemaker) or 2 (dual-chamber pacemaker) leads. Leads conduct intrinsic atrial or ventricular signals to the sensing circuitry and deliver the pulse generator charge to the myocardium (muscle of the heart).
Complications of Biventricular Pacemaker Implantation
The complications that may arise when a BiV pacemaker is implanted are similar to those that occur with standard pacemaker implantation, including pneumothorax, perforation of the great vessels or the myocardium, air embolus, infection, bleeding, and arrhythmias. Moreover, left ventricular pacing through the coronary sinus can be associated with rupture of the sinus as another complication.
Conclusion of 2003 Review of Biventricular Pacemakers by the Medical Advisory Secretariat
The randomized controlled trials (RCTs) the Medical Advisory Secretariat retrieved analyzed chronic HF patients that were assessed for up to 6 months. Other studies have been prospective, but nonrandomized, not double-blinded, uncontrolled and/or have had a limited or uncalculated sample size. Short-term studies have focused on acute hemodynamic analyses. The authors of the RCTs reported improved cardiac function and QoL up to 6 months after BiV pacemaker implantation; therefore, there is level 1 evidence that patients in ventricular dyssynchrony who remain symptomatic after medication might benefit from this technology. Based on evidence made available to the Medical Advisory Secretariat by a manufacturer, (8) it appears that these 6-month improvements are maintained at 12-month follow-up.
To date, however, there is insufficient evidence to support the routine use of combined ICD/BiV devices in patients with chronic HF with prolonged QRS intervals.
Summary of Updated Findings Since the 2003 Review
Since the Medical Advisory Secretariat’s review in 2003 of biventricular pacemakers, 2 large RCTs have been published: COMPANION (9) and CARE-HF. (10) The characteristics of each trial are shown in Table 1. The COMPANION trial had a number of major methodological limitations compared with the CARE-HF trial.
Characteristics of the COMPANION and CARE-HF Trials*
BiV indicates biventricular; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; EF, ejection fraction; QRS, the interval representing the Q, R and S waves on an electrocardiogram; FDA, United States Food and Drug Administration.
Overall, CARE-HF showed that BiV pacing significantly improves mortality, QoL, and NYHA class in patients with severe HF and a wide QRS interval (Tables 2 and 3).
CARE-HF Results: Primary and Secondary Endpoints*
BiV indicates biventricular; NNT, number needed to treat.
Cleland JGF, Daubert J, Erdmann E, Freemantle N, Gras D, Kappenberger L et al. The effect of cardiac resynchronization on morbidity and mortality in heart failure (CARE-HF). New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:1539-1549; Copyright 2003 Massachusettes Medical Society. All rights reserved. (10)
CARE H-F Results: NYHA Class and Quality of Life Scores*
Minnesota Living with Heart Failure scores range from 0 to 105; higher scores reflect poorer QoL.
European Quality of Life–5 Dimensions scores range from -0.594 to 1.000; 1.000 indicates fully healthy; 0, dead
Cleland JGF, Daubert J, Erdmann E, Freemantle N, Gras D, Kappenberger L et al. The effect of cardiac resynchronization on morbidity and mortality in heart failure (CARE-HF). New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:1539-1549; Copyright 2005 Massachusettes Medical Society. All rights reserved.(10)
GRADE Quality of Evidence
The quality of these 3 trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria, (12) (Table 4).
Quality refers to criteria such as the adequacy of allocation concealment, blinding, and follow-up.
Consistency refers to the similarity of estimates of effect across studies. If there is an important unexplained inconsistency in the results, confidence in the estimate of effect for that outcome decreases. Differences in the direction of effect, the size of the differences in effect, and the significance of the differences guide the decision about whether important inconsistency exists.
Directness refers to the extent to which the people interventions and outcome measures are similar to those of interest. For example, there may be uncertainty about the directness of the evidence if the people of interest are older, sicker, or have more comorbid conditions than do the people in the studies.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, (12) the following definitions were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
High: Further research is very unlikely to change our confidence on the estimate of effect.
Moderate: Further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate.
Low: Further research is very likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate.
Very low: Any estimate of effect is very uncertain.
Quality of Evidence: CARE-HF and COMPANION
Overall, there is evidence that BiV pacemakers are effective for improving mortality, QoL, and functional status in patients with NYHA class III/IV HF, an EF less than 0.35, a QRS interval greater than 120 ms, who are refractory to drug therapy.
As per the GRADE Working Group, recommendations considered the following 4 main factors:
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates, and the relative value placed on the outcome
The quality of the evidence (Table 4)
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of health care alternatives should be considered explicitly alongside the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 5 shows the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk/uncertainty.
For BiV pacing, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is moderate: the quality of the evidence is moderate/high (because of some uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design, e.g., no blinding), but there is also some risk/uncertainty in terms of the estimated prevalence and wide cost-effectiveness estimates (Table 5).
For the combination BiV pacing/ICD, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is weak—the quality of the evidence is low (because of uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design), but there is also some risk/uncertainty in terms of the estimated prevalence, high cost, and high budget impact (Table 5). There are indirect, low-quality comparisons of the effectiveness of BiV pacemakers compared with the combination BiV/ICD devices.
A stronger recommendation can be made for BiV pacing only compared with the combination BiV/ICD device for patients with an EF less than or equal to 0.35, and a QRS interval over or equal to 120 ms, and NYHA III/IV symptoms, and refractory to optimal medical therapy (Table 5).
There is moderate/high-quality evidence that BiV pacemakers significantly improve mortality, QoL, and functional status.
There is low-quality evidence that combined BiV/ICD devices significantly improve mortality, QoL, and functional status.
To date, there are no direct comparisons of the effectiveness of BiV pacemakers compared with the combined BiV/ICD devices in terms of mortality, QoL, and functional status.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation
BiV refers to biventricular; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; NNT, number needed to treat.
PMCID: PMC3382419  PMID: 23074464
2.  Decreased frontal regulation during pain anticipation in unmedicated subjects with major depressive disorder 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(3):e239-.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by impaired processing of negative information, possibly due to dysfunction in both, the bottom-up emotional network and top-down modulatory network. By acquiring functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on a pain-anticipation task, we tested the hypothesis that individuals with MDD would show increased negative biasing that may be associated with reduced frontal connectivity. Thirty-one (15 females) unmedicated young adults with current MDD and 22 (11 females) healthy subjects with no history of MDD were recruited. Groups did not differ significantly in age, race, level of education, marital status or gender distribution. fMRI data were collected during an event-related pain-anticipation paradigm, during which subjects were cued to anticipate painful heat stimuli of high or low intensity. All temperature stimuli were applied to each subject's left forearm. We found that relative to healthy comparison subjects, participants with MDD showed significantly stronger responses to high versus low pain anticipation within right ventral anterior insula (AI), but overlapping response within right dorsal AI, which correlated positively with the depression symptoms severity in the MDD group. Functional connectivity analyses showed increased functional connectivity between dorsal insula and posterior thalamus and decreased functional connectivity between dorsal insula and the right inferior frontal gyrus in the MDD compared with the non-MDD group. Our results demonstrate that unmedicated individuals with current MDD compared with healthy never-depressed subjects show both differential and overlapping response within AI during anticipation of pain. Furthermore, the overlapping insular response is less regulated by frontal brain systems and is more subservient to affective processing regions in the posterior thalamus in MDD. These results support and provide functional validation of the co-occurring enhanced ‘bottom-up' and attenuated ‘top-down' processing of salient, unpleasant emotional information in MDD.
PMCID: PMC3625914  PMID: 23481626
depression; emotion; fMRI; imaging; insula; modulation
3.  Burden of Depressive Disorders by Country, Sex, Age, and Year: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001547.
In this paper, Ferrari and colleagues analyzed the burden of depressive disorders in GBD 2010 and identified depressive disorders as a leading cause of burden. The authors present severity proportions; burden by country, region, age, sex, and year; as well as burden of depressive disorders as a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Depressive disorders were a leading cause of burden in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 1990 and 2000 studies. Here, we analyze the burden of depressive disorders in GBD 2010 and present severity proportions, burden by country, region, age, sex, and year, as well as burden of depressive disorders as a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease.
Methods and Findings
Burden was calculated for major depressive disorder (MDD) and dysthymia. A systematic review of epidemiological data was conducted. The data were pooled using a Bayesian meta-regression. Disability weights from population survey data quantified the severity of health loss from depressive disorders. These weights were used to calculate years lived with disability (YLDs) and disability adjusted life years (DALYs). Separate DALYs were estimated for suicide and ischemic heart disease attributable to depressive disorders.
Depressive disorders were the second leading cause of YLDs in 2010. MDD accounted for 8.2% (5.9%–10.8%) of global YLDs and dysthymia for 1.4% (0.9%–2.0%). Depressive disorders were a leading cause of DALYs even though no mortality was attributed to them as the underlying cause. MDD accounted for 2.5% (1.9%–3.2%) of global DALYs and dysthymia for 0.5% (0.3%–0.6%). There was more regional variation in burden for MDD than for dysthymia; with higher estimates in females, and adults of working age. Whilst burden increased by 37.5% between 1990 and 2010, this was due to population growth and ageing. MDD explained 16 million suicide DALYs and almost 4 million ischemic heart disease DALYs. This attributable burden would increase the overall burden of depressive disorders from 3.0% (2.2%–3.8%) to 3.8% (3.0%–4.7%) of global DALYs.
GBD 2010 identified depressive disorders as a leading cause of burden. MDD was also a contributor of burden allocated to suicide and ischemic heart disease. These findings emphasize the importance of including depressive disorders as a public-health priority and implementing cost-effective interventions to reduce its burden.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depressive disorders are common mental disorders that occur in people of all ages across all world regions. Depression—an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness that can last for months or years—can make people feel that life is no longer worth living. People affected by depression lose interest in the activities they used to enjoy and can also be affected by physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep. Major depressive disorder (MDD, also known as clinical depression) is an episodic disorder with a chronic (long-term) outcome and increased risk of death. It involves at least one major depressive episode in which the affected individual experiences a depressed mood almost all day, every day for at least 2 weeks. Dysthymia is a milder, chronic form of depression that lasts for at least 2 years. People with dysthymia are often described as constantly unhappy. Both these subtypes of depression (and others such as that experienced in bipolar disorder) can be treated with antidepressant drugs and with talking therapies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Depressive disorders were a leading cause of disease burden in the 1990 and 2000 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) studies, collaborative scientific efforts that quantify the health loss attributable to diseases and injuries in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a healthy year of life). DALYs are calculated by adding together the years of life lived with a disability (YLD, a measure that includes a disability weight factor reflecting disease severity) and the years of life lost because of disorder-specific premature death. The GBD initiative aims to provide data that can be used to improve public-health policy. Thus, knowing that depressive disorders are a leading cause of disease burden worldwide has helped to prioritize depressive disorders in global public-health agendas. Here, the researchers analyze the burden of MDD and dysthymia in GBD 2010 by country, region, age, and sex, and calculate the burden of suicide and ischemic heart disease attributable to depressive disorders (depression is a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease). GBD 2010 is broader in scope than previous GBD studies and quantifies the direct burden of 291 diseases and injuries and the burden attributable to 67 risk factors across 187 countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected data on the prevalence, incidence, remission rates, and duration of MDD and dysthymia and on the excess deaths caused by these disorders from published articles. They pooled these data using a statistical method called Bayesian meta-regression and calculated YLDs for MDD and dysthymia using disability weights collected in population surveys. MDD accounted for 8.2% of global YLDs in 2010, making it the second leading cause of YLDs. Dysthymia accounted for 1.4% of global YLDs. MDD and dysthymia were also leading causes of DALYs, accounting for 2.5% and 0.5% of global DALYs, respectively. The regional variation in the burden was greater for MDD than for dysthymia, the burden of depressive disorders was higher in women than men, the largest proportion of YLDs from depressive disorders occurred among adults of working age, and the global burden of depressive disorders increased by 37.5% between 1990 and 2010 because of population growth and ageing. Finally, MDD explained an additional 16 million DALYs and 4 million DALYs when it was considered as a risk factor for suicide and ischemic heart disease, respectively. This “attributable” burden increased the overall burden of depressive disorders to 3.8% of global DALYs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings update and extend the information available from GBD 1990 and 2000 on the global burden of depressive disorders. They confirm that depressive disorders are a leading direct cause of the global disease burden and show that MDD also contributes to the burden allocated to suicide and ischemic heart disease. The estimates of the global burden of depressive disorders reported in GBD 2010 are likely to be more accurate than those in previous GBD studies but are limited by factors such as the sparseness of data on depressive disorders from developing countries and the validity of the disability weights used to calculate YLDs. Even so, these findings reinforce the importance of treating depressive disorders as a public-health priority and of implementing cost-effective interventions to reduce their ubiquitous burden.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides detailed information about depression and includes personal stories about depression
More personal stories about depression are available from
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information on depression and on the global burden of disease (in several languages)
Information about the Global Burden of Disease initiative is available
beyondblue provides many resources on depression
The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research provides information on epidemiology and the global burden of disease specifically for mental disorders
PMCID: PMC3818162  PMID: 24223526
4.  Stress Response Circuitry Hypoactivation Related to Hormonal Dysfunction in Women with Major Depression 
Journal of affective disorders  2010;131(1-3):379-387.
Women have approximately twice the risk of major depressive disorder (MDD) than men, yet this difference remains largely unexplained. Previous MDD research suggests high rates of endocrine dysfunction, which may be related to deficits in brain activity in stress response circuitry [hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)]. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study investigated the relationship between hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG)-axis hormones and stress response circuitry dysfunction in MDD in women.
During the late follicular/midcycle phase of the menstrual cycle, female participants (10 with extensive histories of MDD, in remission, 10 healthy controls) were scanned while viewing negative and neutral arousal pictures. Group differences in blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal changes were analyzed using SPM2. Baseline gonadal hormones included estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone.
fMRI results showed greater BOLD signal intensity changes in controls versus MDD in hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, OFC, ACC, and subgenual ACC, findings unrelated to medication status. MDD women had a lower serum estradiol and higher serum progesterone compared to controls. Hypoactivations in hypothalamus, subgenual ACC, amygdala and OFC in MDD were associated with low estradiol and high progesterone.
Generalizability of our findings is limited by small sample size and restriction to females, although this did not affect the internal validity of the results.
Hypoactivation of the stress response circuitry in MDD women is associated with dysregulation of the HPG-axis. Associations between brain activity deficits and hormonal disruption in MDD may ultimately contribute to understanding sex differences in MDD.
PMCID: PMC3073153  PMID: 21183223
Depression; stress; hormones; fMRI; HPG; women’s mental health; mood; HPA
5.  Hippocampal Granule Neuron Number and Dentate Gyrus Volume in Antidepressant-Treated and Untreated Major Depression 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2013;38(6):1068-1077.
Smaller hippocampal volume is reported in major depressive disorder (MDD). We hypothesize that it may be related to fewer granule neurons (GN) in the dentate gyrus (DG), a defect possibly reversible with antidepressants. We studied age-, sex-, and postmortem interval-matched groups: no major psychopathology (controls); unmedicated-MDD; and MDD treated with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (MDD*SSRI) or tricyclics (MDD*TCA). Frozen right hippocampi were fixed, sectioned (50 μm), immunostained with neuronal nuclear marker (NeuN), and counterstained with hematoxylin. GN and glial number, and DG and granule cell layer (GCL) volumes were stereologically estimated. Fewer GNs in the anterior DG were present in unmedicated-MDDs compared with controls (p=0.013). Younger age of MDD onset correlated with fewer GNs (p=0.021). Unmedicated-MDDs had fewer mid-DG GNs than MDD*SSRIs (p=0.028) and controls (p=0.032). Anterior GCL glial number did not differ between groups. Anterior/mid GCL volume was smaller in unmedicated-MDDs vs controls (p=0.008) and larger in MDD*SSRIs vs unmedicated-MDDs (p<0.001), MDD*TCAs (p<0.001), and controls (p<0.001). Anterior GCL volume and GN number (r=0.594, p=0.001), and mid DG volume and GN number (r=0.398, p=0.044) were correlated. Anterior DG capillary density correlated with GN number (p=0.027), and with GCL (p=0.024) and DG (r=0.400, p=0.047) volumes. Posterior DG volume and GN number did not differ between groups. Fewer GNs in unmedicated-MDD without fewer neuronal progenitor cells, as previously reported, suggests a cell maturation or survival defect, perhaps related to MDD duration. This may contribute to a smaller hippocampus and is potentially reversed by SSRIs. Postmortem studies are correlative and animal studies are needed to test implied causal relationships.
PMCID: PMC3629406  PMID: 23303074
Depression; Unipolar/Bipolar; Glia; Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology; NeuN; Neuroanatomy; Postmortem; Psychopharmacology; Smoking; SSRI; Stereology; NeuN; postmortem; stereology; plasticity; psychopharmacology; serotonin
6.  Relationship of Emotional Processing to Masked Faces in the Amygdala to Mood State and Treatment in Major Depressive Disorder 
Archives of General Psychiatry  2010;67(11):1128-1138.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for mood-congruent processing biases toward explicitly presented, emotionally-valenced stimuli. However, few studies have investigated such biases toward implicitly presented stimuli.
To investigate differential amygdala responses to sad, happy and neutral faces presented below the level of explicit conscious awareness using a backward masking task in unmedicated subjects with MDD and healthy controls.
Initial cross-sectional design followed by a longitudinal treatment trial using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Psychiatric outpatient clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Twenty-two unmedicated, currently-depressed subjects with MDD (dMDD), 16 unmedicated subjects with MDD in full remission (rMDD), and 25 healthy controls (HC).
Ten dMDD subjects underwent 8 weeks of antidepressant treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, sertraline.
Main Outcome Measures
Amygdala region-of-interest and whole brain analyses evaluated the hemodynamic response during exposure to masked-sad versus masked-happy faces, to masked-sad versus neutral faces, and to masked-happy versus neutral faces.
dMDD subjects showed greater amygdala responses than HC to masked-sad faces, while HC subjects showed greater amygdala responses to masked-happy faces. The bias toward sad faces also was evident in the rMDD relative to HC subjects and did not differ between the dMDD and rMDD subjects. This processing bias reversed toward the normative pattern in the dMDD subjects following sertraline treatment.
Emotional processing biases occur in the amygdala to sad faces presented below conscious awareness in currently-depressed or remitted-MDD subjects and to happy faces in controls. By influencing the salience of social stimuli, mood-congruent processing biases in the amygdala may contribute to dysfunction in conscious perceptions and social interactions in MDD. Our data suggest, however, that the negative bias resolves and a positive bias develops in MDD subjects during selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor treatment.
PMCID: PMC3253452  PMID: 21041614
7.  Enhanced visual motion perception in Major Depressive Disorder 
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a mood disorder that is not traditionally considered to affect the visual system. However, recent findings have reported decreased cortical levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in occipital cortex. To explore possible functional consequences of MDD on visual processing, we applied a psychophysical visual motion processing task in which healthy young adults typically exhibit impaired perceptual discrimination of large high contrast stimuli. It has been suggested that this phenomenon, spatial suppression, is mediated by GABAergic center-surround antagonism in visual pathways. Based on previous findings linking MDD to occipital GABA dysfunction, we hypothesized that MDD patients would exhibit decreased spatial suppression, leading to the counterintuitive hypothesis of better psychophysical performance. Indeed, motion perception for typically suppressed stimuli was enhanced in patients with MDD compared to age-matched controls. Furthermore, the degree of spatial suppression correlated with an individual’s illness load; patients with greater lifetime duration of depression exhibited the least spatial suppression and performed the best in the high contrast motion discrimination task. Notably, this decrease in spatial suppression persisted beyond recovery and without the confound of acute illness or treatment; all patients had been clinically recovered and unmedicated for several months at the time of testing, suggesting that depression has ubiquitous consequences that may persist long after mood symptoms have receded. This finding raises the possibility that spatial suppression may represent a sensitive endophenotypic marker of trait vulnerability in MDD.
PMCID: PMC2772577  PMID: 19605644
visual motion; center-surround; depression; GABA; suppression; perception deficit
8.  Depression, Comorbid Anxiety Disorders, and Heart Rate Variability in Physically Healthy, Unmedicated Patients: Implications for Cardiovascular Risk 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30777.
There is evidence that heart rate variability (HRV) is reduced in major depressive disorder (MDD), although there is debate about whether this effect is caused by medication or the disorder per se. MDD is associated with a two to fourfold increase in the risk of cardiac mortality, and HRV is a robust predictor of cardiac mortality; determining a direct link between HRV and not only MDD, but common comorbid anxiety disorders, will point to psychiatric indicators for cardiovascular risk reduction.
To determine in physically healthy, unmedicated patients whether (1) HRV is reduced in MDD relative to controls, and (2) HRV reductions are driven by MDD alone, comorbid generalized anxiety disorder (GAD, characterized by anxious anticipation), or comorbid panic and posttraumatic stress disorders (PD/PTSD, characterized by anxious arousal).
Design, Setting, and Patients
A case-control study in 2006 and 2007 on 73 MDD patients, including 24 without anxiety comorbidity, 24 with GAD, and 14 with PD/PTSD. Seventy-three MDD and 94 healthy age- and sex-matched control participants were recruited from the general community. Participants had no history of drug addiction, alcoholism, brain injury, loss of consciousness, stroke, neurological disorder, or serious medical conditions. There were no significant differences between the four groups in age, gender, BMI, or alcohol use.
Main Outcome Measures
HRV was calculated from electrocardiography under a standardized short-term resting state condition.
HRV was reduced in MDD relative to controls, an effect associated with a medium effect size. MDD participants with comorbid generalized anxiety disorder displayed the greatest reductions in HRV relative to controls, an effect associated with a large effect size.
Unmedicated, physically healthy MDD patients with and without comorbid anxiety had reduced HRV. Those with comorbid GAD showed the greatest reductions. Implications for cardiovascular risk reduction strategies in otherwise healthy patients with psychiatric illness are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3280258  PMID: 22355326
9.  Mismatch Negativity of Sad Syllables Is Absent in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91995.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is an important and highly prevalent mental disorder characterized by anhedonia and a lack of interest in everyday activities. Additionally, patients with MDD appear to have deficits in various cognitive abilities. Although a number of studies investigating the central auditory processing of low-level sound features in patients with MDD have demonstrated that this population exhibits impairments in automatic processing, the influence of emotional voice processing has yet to be addressed. To explore the automatic processing of emotional prosodies in patients with MDD, we analyzed the ability to detect automatic changes using event-related potentials (ERPs).
This study included 18 patients with MDD and 22 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. Subjects were instructed to watch a silent movie but to ignore the afferent acoustic emotional prosodies presented to both ears while continuous electroencephalographic activity was synchronously recorded. Prosodies included meaningless syllables, such as “dada” spoken with happy, angry, sad, or neutral tones. The mean amplitudes of the ERPs elicited by emotional stimuli and the peak latency of the emotional differential waveforms were analyzed.
The sad MMN was absent in patients with MDD, whereas the happy and angry MMN components were similar across groups. The abnormal sad emotional MMN component was not significantly correlated with the HRSD-17 and HAMA scores, respectively.
The data indicate that patients with MDD are impaired in their ability to automatically process sad prosody, whereas their ability to process happy and angry prosodies remains normal. The dysfunctional sad emotion-related MMN in patients with MDD were not correlated with depression symptoms. The blunted MMN of sad prosodies could be considered a trait of MDD.
PMCID: PMC3962367  PMID: 24658084
10.  Memory mood congruency phenomenon in bipolar I disorder and major depression disorder patients 
The objective of the present study was to evaluate memory performance in tasks with and without affective content (to confirm the mood congruency phenomenon) in acutely admitted patients with bipolar I disorder (BD) and major depression disorder (MDD) and in healthy participants. Seventy-eight participants (24 BD, 29 MDD, and 25 healthy controls) were evaluated. Three word lists were used as the memory task with affective content (positive, negative and indifferent). Psychiatric symptoms were also evaluated with rating scales (Young Mania Rating Scale for mania and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale for depression). Patients were selected during the first week of hospitalization. BD patients showed higher scores in the word span with positive tone than MDD patients and healthy controls (P = 0.002). No other difference was observed for tests with affective tone. MDD patients presented significantly lower scores in the Mini-Mental State Exam, logical memory test, visual recognition span, and digit span, while BD patients presented lower scores in the visual recognition test and digit span. Mood congruency effect was found for word span with positive tone among BD patients but no similar effect was observed among MDD patients for negative items. MDD patients presented more memory impairment than BD patients, but BD patients also showed memory impairment.
PMCID: PMC3854319  PMID: 22714812
Memory; Bipolar disorder; Depression; Affect
11.  The possible role of the kynurenine pathway in adolescent depression with melancholic features 
Although adolescent major depressive disorder (MDD) is acknowledged to be a heterogeneous disorder, no studies have reported on biological correlates of its clinical subgroups. This study addresses this issue by examining whether adolescent MDD with and without melancholic features (M-MDD and NonM-MDD) have distinct biological features in the kynurenine pathway (KP). The KP is initiated by pro-inflammatory cytokines via induction of the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), which degrades tryptophan (TRP) into kynurenine (KYN). KYN is further metabolized into neurotoxins linked to neuronal dysfunction in MDD. Hypotheses were that, compared to healthy controls and to NonM-MDD adolescents, adolescents with M-MDD would exhibit: (i) increased activation of the KP [i.e., increased KYN and KYN/TRP (reflecting IDO activity)]; (ii) greater neurotoxic loads [i.e., increased 3-hydroxyanthranilic acid (3-HAA, neurotoxin) and 3-HAA/KYN (reflecting production of neurotoxins)]; and (iii) decreased TRP. We also examined relationships between severity of MDD and KP metabolites.
Subjects were 20 adolescents with M-MDD, 30 adolescents with NonM-MDD, and 22 healthy adolescents. MDD episode duration had to be ≥ 6 weeks and Children’s Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDRS-R) scores were ≥ 36. Blood samples were collected at AM after an overnight fast and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography. Group contrasts relied on analysis of covariance based on ranks, adjusted for age, gender, and CDRS-R scores. Analyses were repeated excluding medicated patients. Fisher’s protected least significant difference was used for multiple comparisons.
As hypothesized, KYN/TRP ratios were elevated and TRP concentrations were reduced in adolescents with M-MDD compared to NonM-MDD adolescents (p = .001 and .006, respectively) and to healthy controls (p = .008 and .022, respectively). These findings remained significant when medicated patients were excluded from the analyses. Significant correlations were obtained exclusively in the M-MDD group between KYN and 3-HAA/KYN and CDRS-R.
Findings support the notion that adolescent M-MDD may represent a biologically distinct clinical syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3711227  PMID: 20406333
Adolescent depression; indoleamine 2; 3-dioxygenase (IDO); kynurenine (KYN); tryptophan (TRP); melancholic; MDD subtypes
12.  Learning from negative feedback in patients with major depressive disorder is attenuated by SSRI antidepressants 
One barrier to interpreting past studies of cognition and major depressive disorder (MDD) has been the failure in many studies to adequately dissociate the effects of MDD from the potential cognitive side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) use. To better understand how remediation of depressive symptoms affects cognitive function in MDD, we evaluated three groups of subjects: medication-naïve patients with MDD, medicated patients with MDD receiving the SSRI paroxetine, and healthy control (HC) subjects. All were administered a category-learning task that allows for dissociation between learning from positive feedback (reward) vs. learning from negative feedback (punishment). Healthy subjects learned significantly better from positive feedback than medication-naïve and medicated MDD groups, whose learning accuracy did not differ significantly. In contrast, medicated patients with MDD learned significantly less from negative feedback than medication-naïve patients with MDD and healthy subjects, whose learning accuracy was comparable. A comparison of subject’s relative sensitivity to positive vs. negative feedback showed that both the medicated MDD and HC groups conform to Kahneman and Tversky’s (1979) Prospect Theory, which expects losses (negative feedback) to loom psychologically slightly larger than gains (positive feedback). However, medicated MDD and HC profiles are not similar, which indicates that the state of medicated MDD is not “normal” when compared to HC, but rather balanced with less learning from both positive and negative feedback. On the other hand, medication-naïve patients with MDD violate Prospect Theory by having significantly exaggerated learning from negative feedback. This suggests that SSRI antidepressants impair learning from negative feedback, while having negligible effect on learning from positive feedback. Overall, these findings shed light on the importance of dissociating the cognitive consequences of MDD from those of SSRI treatment, and from cognitive evaluation of MDD subjects in a medication-naïve state before the administration of antidepressants. Future research is needed to correlate the mood-elevating effects and the cognitive balance between reward- and punishment-based learning related to SSRIs.
PMCID: PMC3779792  PMID: 24065894
major depressive disorder; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor; basal ganglia; reward; punishment
13.  Temporal discounting in major depressive disorder 
Psychological Medicine  2013;44(9):1825-1834.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with abnormalities in financial reward processing. Previous research suggests that patients with MDD show reduced sensitivity to frequency of financial rewards. However, there is a lack of conclusive evidence from studies investigating the evaluation of financial rewards over time, an important aspect of reward processing that influences the way people plan long-term investments. Beck's cognitive model posits that patients with MDD hold a negative view of the future that may influence the amount of resources patients are willing to invest into their future selves.
We administered a delay discounting task to 82 participants: 29 healthy controls, 29 unmedicated participants with fully remitted MDD (rMDD) and 24 participants with current MDD (11 on medication).
Patients with current MDD, relative to remitted patients and healthy subjects, discounted large-sized future rewards at a significantly higher rate and were insensitive to changes in reward size from medium to large. There was a main effect of clinical group on discounting rates for large-sized rewards, and discounting rates for large-sized rewards correlated with severity of depressive symptoms, particularly hopelessness.
Higher discounting of delayed rewards in MDD seems to be state dependent and may be a reflection of depressive symptoms, specifically hopelessness. Discounting distant rewards at a higher rate means that patients are more likely to choose immediate financial options. Such impairments related to long-term investment planning may be important for understanding value-based decision making in MDD, and contribute to ongoing functional impairment.
PMCID: PMC4035754  PMID: 24176142
Delay discounting; hopelessness; major depressive disorder; reward processing
14.  Reduced Caudate and Nucleus Accumbens Response to Rewards in Unmedicated Subjects with Major Depressive Disorder 
The American journal of psychiatry  2009;166(6):702-710.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by impaired reward processing, possibly due to dysfunction in the basal ganglia. However, few neuroimaging studies of depression have distinguished between anticipatory and consummatory phases of reward processing. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a task that dissociates anticipatory and consummatory phases of reward processing, the authors tested the hypothesis that MDD participants would show reduced reward-related responses in basal ganglia structures.
A monetary incentive delay task was presented to 30 unmedicated MDD subjects and 31 healthy comparison subjects during fMRI scanning. Whole-brain analyses focused on neural responses to reward-predicting cues and rewarding outcomes (i.e., monetary gains). Secondary analyses focused on the relationship between anhedonic symptoms and basal ganglia volumes.
Relative to comparison subjects, MDD participants showed significantly weaker responses to gains in the left nucleus accumbens and bilateral caudate. Group differences in these regions were specific to rewarding outcomes and did not generalize to neutral or negative outcomes, although relatively reduced responses to monetary penalties in MDD emerged in other caudate regions. By contrast, evidence for group differences during reward anticipation was weaker, although MDD subjects showed reduced activation to reward cues in a small sector of the left posterior putamen. Among MDD subjects, anhedonic symptoms and depression severity were associated with reduced bilateral caudate volume.
These results indicate that basal ganglia dysfunction in MDD may affect the consummatory phase of reward processing. Additionally, morphometric results suggest that anhedonia in MDD is related to caudate volume.
PMCID: PMC2735451  PMID: 19411368
15.  Habenula Volume in Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder: A High Resolution MRI Study 
Biological psychiatry  2010;69(4):336-343.
Increased activity of the habenula has been implicated in the etiology of major depressive disorder (MDD), in which reductions in habenula volume are present at postmortem. We conducted the first MRI analysis of habenula volume in MDD and bipolar disorder (BD).
High-resolution images (resolution≈0.4mm3) were acquired using a 3T scanner, and a pulse sequence optimized for tissue contrast resolution. The habenula was manually segmented by one rater blind to diagnosis. Seventy-four healthy controls (HC) were compared to both medicated (lithium/divalproex, n=15) and unmedicated, depressed BD (n=22) patients, unmedicated, depressed MDD patients (n=28), and unmedicated MDD patients in remission (RD, n=32).
The unmedicated BD patients displayed significantly smaller absolute (p<0.01) and normalized (p<0.05) habenula volumes than the HC subjects. In post hoc assessments analyzing males and females separately, the currently-depressed females with MDD had smaller absolute (p<0.05) habenula volumes than the healthy control females. None of the other psychiatric groups differed significantly from the HC group.
We provide further evidence for the involvement of the habenula in affective illness, but suggest that a reduction in volume may be more pronounced in unmedicated, depressed BD subjects and female, currently depressed MDD subjects. The habenula plays major roles in the long-term modification of monoamine transmission and behavioral responses to stress, and in the suppression of dopamine cell activity following the absence of an expected reward. A reduction in habenula volume may thus have functional consequences which contribute to the risk for developing affective disease.
PMCID: PMC3030670  PMID: 21094939
major depressive disorder; bipolar disorder; habenula; magnetic resonance imaging; high resolution; lithium
16.  Clinical Subtypes of Depression Are Associated with Specific Metabolic Parameters and Circadian Endocrine Profiles in Women: The Power Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e28912.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been associated with adverse medical consequences, including cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Patients with MDD may be classified as having melancholic, atypical, or undifferentiated features. The goal of the present study was to assess whether these clinical subtypes of depression have different endocrine and metabolic features and consequently, varying medical outcomes.
Premenopausal women, ages 21 to 45 years, with MDD (N = 89) and healthy controls (N = 44) were recruited for a prospective study of bone turnover. Women with MDD were classified as having melancholic (N = 51), atypical (N = 16), or undifferentiated (N = 22) features. Outcome measures included: metabolic parameters, body composition, bone mineral density (BMD), and 24 hourly sampling of plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), cortisol, and leptin.
Compared with control subjects, women with undifferentiated and atypical features of MDD exhibited greater BMI, waist/hip ratio, and whole body and abdominal fat mass. Women with undifferentiated MDD characteristics also had higher lipid and fasting glucose levels in addition to a greater prevalence of low BMD at the femoral neck compared to controls. Elevated ACTH levels were demonstrated in women with atypical features of depression, whereas higher mean 24-hour leptin levels were observed in the melancholic subgroup.
Pre-menopausal women with various features of MDD exhibit metabolic, endocrine, and BMD features that may be associated with different health consequences.
Trial Registration NCT00006180
PMCID: PMC3250402  PMID: 22235252
17.  A mega-analysis of genome-wide association studies for major depressive disorder 
Molecular psychiatry  2012;18(4):10.1038/mp.2012.21.
Prior genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of major depressive disorder (MDD) have met with limited success. We sought to increase statistical power to detect disease loci by conducting a GWAS mega-analysis for MDD. In the MDD discovery phase, we analyzed more than 1.2 million autosomal and X chromosome single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 18 759 independent and unrelated subjects of recent European ancestry (9240 MDD cases and 9519 controls). In the MDD replication phase, we evaluated 554 SNPs in independent samples (6783 MDD cases and 50 695 controls). We also conducted a cross-disorder meta-analysis using 819 autosomal SNPs with P< 0.0001 for either MDD or the Psychiatric GWAS Consortium bipolar disorder (BIP) mega-analysis (9238 MDD cases/8039 controls and 6998 BIP cases/7775 controls). No SNPs achieved genome-wide significance in the MDD discovery phase, the MDD replication phase or in pre-planned secondary analyses (by sex, recurrent MDD, recurrent early-onset MDD, age of onset, pre-pubertal onset MDD or typical-like MDD from a latent class analyses of the MDD criteria). In the MDD-bipolar cross-disorder analysis, 15 SNPs exceeded genome-wide significance (P<5×10−8), and all were in a 248 kb interval of high LD on 3p21.1 (chr3:52 425 083–53 822 102, minimum P= 5.9×10−9 at rs2535629). Although this is the largest genome-wide analysis of MDD yet conducted, its high prevalence means that the sample is still underpowered to detect genetic effects typical for complex traits. Therefore, we were unable to identify robust and replicable findings. We discuss what this means for genetic research for MDD. The 3p21.1 MDD-BIP finding should be interpreted with caution as the most significant SNP did not replicate in MDD samples, and genotyping in independent samples will be needed to resolve its status.
PMCID: PMC3837431  PMID: 22472876
genetics; genome-wide association study; major depressive disorder; mega-analysis; meta-analysis
18.  The possible role of the kynurenine pathway in anhedonia in adolescents 
To address the heterogeneous nature of adolescent major depression (MDD), we investigated anhedonia, a core symptom of MDD. We recently reported activation of the kynurenine pathway (KP), a central neuroimmunological pathway which metabolizes tryptophan (TRP) into kynurenine (KYN) en route to several neurotoxins, in a group of highly anhedonic MDD adolescents. In this study, we aimed to extend our prior work and examine the relationship between KP activity and anhedonia, measured quantitatively, in a group of MDD adolescents and in a combined group of MDD and healthy control adolescents. Thirty-six adolescents with MDD (22 medication-free) and 20 controls were included in the analysis. Anhedonia scores were generated based on clinician- and subject-rated assessments and a semi-structured clinician interview. Blood KP metabolites, collected in the AM after an overnight fast, were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. The rate-limiting enzyme of the KP, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), was estimated by the ratio of KYN/TRP. Pearson correlation tests were used to assess correlations between anhedonia scores and KP measures while controlling for MDD severity. IDO activity and anhedonia scores were positively correlated in the group psychotropic medication-free adolescents with MDD (r = 0.42, P = 0.05) and in a combined group of MDD subjects and healthy controls (including medicated patients: r = 0.30, P = 0.02; excluding medicated patients: r = 0.44, P = 0.004). In conclusions, our findings provide further support for the role for the KP, particularly IDO, in anhedonia in adolescent MDD. These results emphasize the importance of dimensional approaches in the investigation of psychiatric disorders.
PMCID: PMC3679652  PMID: 21786117
Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase; Anhedonia; Adolescents; Major depressive disorder; Kynurenine pathway
19.  Major Depressive Disorder is Associated with Altered Functional Brain Response During Anticipation and Processing of Heat Pain 
Archives of general psychiatry  2008;65(11):1275-1284.
Chronic pain and depression are highly comorbid conditions, yet little is known about the neurobiological basis of pain processing in major depressive disorder (MDD).
To examine the neural substrates underlying anticipation and processing of heat pain in a group of unmedicated young adults with current MDD.
Functional magnetic resonance neuroimaging (fMRI) data were collected during an event-related factorial experimental pain paradigm. Painful and non-painful heat stimuli were applied to the left volar forearm while different color shapes explicitly signaled the intensity of the upcoming stimulus.
University brain imaging center.
15 (12 F) young adults with current MDD and 15 (10F) healthy subjects with no history of MDD were recruited and matched for age and level of education. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV was administered to all participants by a board-certified psychiatrist.
Main Outcome measure
Between-group differences in blood oxygen level-dependent fMRI signal change to anticipation and processing of painful versus non-painful temperature stimuli.
MDD compared to healthy controls showed: (1) increased activation in right anterior insular region, dorsal anterior cingulate and right amygdala during anticipation of painful relative to non-painful stimuli, (2) increased activation in right amygdala and decreased activation in periaqueductal gray, rostral anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices during painful stimulation relative to non-painful stimulation, and (3) in MDD subjects greater activation in the right amygdala during anticipation of pain was associated with greater levels of perceived helplessness.
These findings suggest that increased emotional reactivity during the anticipation of heat pain may lead to an impaired ability to modulate pain experience in MDD. Future studies should examine the degree to which altered functional brain response during anticipatory processing affects ability to modulate negative affective states in MDD, which is a core characteristic of this disorder.
PMCID: PMC2702160  PMID: 18981339
20.  Plasma CRP Levels in Premenopausal Women with Major Depression: A 12-Month Controlled Study 
C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk, is often elevated in major depressive disorder (MDD). The magnitude and consistency of this elevation have not been previously characterized in premenopausal women with MDD. The aim of the study was to prospectively assess plasma CRP levels, body composition, endocrine and metabolic parameters, and depressive status in premenopausal women with MDD (n = 77) and controls (n = 41), aged 21 to 45. Women were enrolled in a 12-month, controlled study of bone turnover, the P.O.W.E.R. (Premenopausal, Osteoporosis, Women, Alendronate, Depression) Study. Blood samples were taken at Baseline, Month 6, and Month 12. Most subjects with MDD were in clinical remission. These women tended to have consistently higher CRP levels than controls over 12 months (p = 0.077). BMI was positively related to log[CRP] in women with MDD only. Nine women with MDD had CRP levels greater than 10 mg/l, a value associated with a very high cardiovascular risk. This subset was obese and had significantly higher triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, fasting insulin, and HOMA-IR than the rest of women with MDD. The variations in CRP levels over time were high (intra- and inter-individual coefficients of variations of ∼30–50% and ∼70–140%, respectively). No control had CRP levels greater than 10 mg/l. Depression was associated with increased plasma CRP in women with MDD. The clinical significance of abnormal plasma CRP for cardiovascular risk needs to be assessed in large prospective studies of women with depression.
PMCID: PMC2782561  PMID: 19408214
obesity; women's health; inflammation; cytokine; cardiovascular morbidity; metabolic syndrome
21.  Functional anatomy of autobiographical memory recall deficits in depression 
Psychological Medicine  2011;42(2):345-357.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with deficits in recalling specific autobiographical memories (AMs). Extensive research has examined the functional anatomical correlates of AM in healthy humans, but no studies have examined the neurophysiological underpinnings of AM deficits in MDD. The goal of the present study was to examine the differences in the hemodynamic response between patients with MDD and controls while they engage in AM recall.
Participants (12 unmedicated MDD patients; 14 controls) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning while recalling AMs in response to positive, negative and neutral cue words. The hemodynamic response during memory recall versus performing subtraction problems was compared between MDD patients and controls. Additionally, a parametric linear analysis examined which regions correlated with increasing arousal ratings.
Behavioral results showed that relative to controls, the patients with MDD had fewer specific (p=0.013), positive (p=0.030), highly arousing (p=0.036) and recent (p=0.020) AMs, and more categorical (p<0.001) AMs. The blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in the parahippocampus and hippocampus was higher for memory recall versus subtraction in controls and lower in those with MDD. Activity in the anterior insula was lower for specific AM recall versus subtraction, with the magnitude of the decrement greater in MDD patients. Activity in the anterior cingulate cortex was positively correlated with arousal ratings in controls but not in patients with MDD.
We replicated previous findings of fewer specific and more categorical AMs in patients with MDD versus controls. We found differential activity in medial temporal and prefrontal lobe structures involved in AM retrieval between MDD patients and controls as they engaged in AM recall. These neurophysiological deficits may underlie AM recall impairments seen in MDD.
PMCID: PMC3226869  PMID: 21798113
Anterior insula; autobiographical memory; depression; fMRI; hippocampus
22.  Demographic Correlates of DSM-IV Major Depressive Disorder among Older African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and Non-Hispanic Whites: Results from the National Survey of American Life 
To examine the demographic correlates of lifetime and 12-month prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) among older African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and non-Hispanic Whites.
Data are from adults age 55 years and older (n = 1439) recruited to the National Survey of American Life (NSAL; 2001–2003). The DSM-IV World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess 12-month and lifetime MDD. Weighted logistic regression was used to model demographic correlates of MDD.
The population prevalence of lifetime and 12-month MDD were 11.2% and 4.1%, respectively. Bivariate analyses revealed that younger respondents and those with greater disability had a higher prevalence of both lifetime and 12-month MDD compared to those who were older and had lower disability. Multivariable logistic regressions controlling for demographic characteristics revealed that non-Hispanic Whites had the greatest odds of lifetime MDD (OR = 2.27, 95% CI = 1.32, 3.93). Women had significantly greater odds of lifetime MDD compared to men (OR = 2.49, 95% CI = 1.14, 5.41); there were no gender differences in 12-month MDD. Other significant predictors of MDD were marital status and region of residence.
The distribution, correlates, and nature of associations with MDD vary as a function of whether we examined lifetime vs. 12-month MDD. Future work should account for within group differences among older adults with depression. Understanding MDD correlates and the nature of intergroup diversity can inform the identification of particularly vulnerable subgroups as well as appropriate treatment approaches.
PMCID: PMC3418432  PMID: 22038674
depression; Caribbean Blacks; race; ethnicity gender; disability; marital status
23.  A Preliminary Study of Cytokines in Suicidal and Nonsuicidal Adolescents with Major Depression 
Increased systemic cytokine levels, modulators of the immune system, have been repeatedly documented in adult and adolescent major depressive disorder (MDD). This preliminary study extends this work to test the role of cytokines in suicidal symptomatology in adolescent MDD. Hypotheses were that acutely suicidal depressed adolescents would have: (1) increased plasma levels of interferon-γ (IFN-γ), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and IL-1β, and (2) a proinflammatory/antiinflammatory cytokine imbalance (indexed by plasma IFN-γ/IL-4), compared to nonsuicidal depressed adolescents and healthy controls.
Twelve suicidal adolescents with MDD (7 females [58%]; 5 medication-free/naïve), 18 nonsuicidal adolescents with MDD (12 females [67%]; 8 medication-free/naïve), and 15 controls (8 females [53%]) were enrolled. MDD had to be of at least 6 weeks duration, with a minimum severity score of 40 on the Children's Depression Rating Scale–Revised. Plasma cytokines were examined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Nonparametric tests were used to compare subject groups.
Unexpectedly, suicidal adolescents with MDD had significantly decreased plasma TNF-α concentrations compared to nonsuicidal adolescents with MDD (1.33 ± 2.95 pg/mL versus 30.9 ± 110.9 pg/mL; p = 0.03). IFN-γ was increased in both suicidal and nonsuicidal adolescents with MDD compared to controls (2.14 ± 6.22 and 4.20 ± 14.48 versus 0.37 ± 0.64; p < 0.02, p = 0.005). Findings remained evident when controlled for age and gender.
Our preliminary findings suggest that immune system dysregulation may be associated with suicidal symptomatology in adolescent MDD. These findings should be replicated in larger samples with medication-free adolescents.
PMCID: PMC2778037  PMID: 19702494
24.  A Preliminary Study of Cytokines in Suicidal and Nonsuicidal Adolescents with Major Depression 
Increased systemic cytokine levels, modulators of the immune system, have been repeatedly documented in adult and adolescent major depressive disorder (MDD). This preliminary study extends this work to test the role of cytokines in suicidal symptomatology in adolescent MDD. Hypotheses were that acutely suicidal depressed adolescents would have: (1) increased plasma levels of interferon-γ (IFN-γ), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and IL-1β, and (2) a proinflammatory/antiinflammatory cytokine imbalance (indexed by plasma IFN-γ/IL-4), compared to nonsuicidal depressed adolescents and healthy controls.
Twelve suicidal adolescents with MDD (7 females [58%]; 5 medication-free/naïve), 18 nonsuicidal adolescents with MDD (12 females [67%]; 8 medication-free/naïve), and 15 controls (8 females [53%]) were enrolled. MDD had to be of at least 6 weeks duration, with a minimum severity score of 40 on the Children's Depression Rating Scale–Revised. Plasma cytokines were examined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Nonparametric tests were used to compare subject groups.
Unexpectedly, suicidal adolescents with MDD had significantly decreased plasma TNF-α concentrations compared to nonsuicidal adolescents with MDD (1.33 ± 2.95 pg/mL versus 30.9 ± 110.9 pg/mL; p = 0.03). IFN-γ was increased in both suicidal and nonsuicidal adolescents with MDD compared to controls (2.14 ± 6.22 and 4.20 ± 14.48 versus 0.37 ± 0.64; p < 0.02, p = 0.005). Findings remained evident when controlled for age and gender.
Our preliminary findings suggest that immune system dysregulation may be associated with suicidal symptomatology in adolescent MDD. These findings should be replicated in larger samples with medication-free adolescents.
PMCID: PMC2778037  PMID: 19702494
25.  Prefrontal cortical abnormalities in currently depressed versus currently remitted patients with major depressive disorder 
NeuroImage  2010;54(4):2643-2651.
Previous neuromorphometric investigations of major depressive disorder (MDD) have reported abnormalities in gray matter in several regions, although the results have been inconsistent across studies. Some discrepancies in the results across studies may reflect design limitations such as small sample sizes, whereas others may reflect biological variability that potentially manifests as differences in clinical course. For example, it remains unclear whether the abnormalities found in persistently depressed MDD subjects extend to or persist in patients who experience prolonged remission. The aim of the present study was to investigate gray matter (GM) differences in unmedicated, currently-depressed participants (dMDD) and unmedicated, currently-remitted (rMDD) participants with MDD compared to healthy controls (HC).
The GM density and volume was compared across groups using voxel-based morphometry, a quantitative neuroanatomical technique, and high-resolution MRI images from 107 HC, 58 dMDD and 27 rMDD subjects.
Relative to the HC group the dMDD group had reduced GM in the dorsal anterolateral (DALPFC), the dorsomedial (DMPFC) and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). Relative to the rMDD group the dMDD group showed reduced GM in the DALPFC, the VLPFC, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the precuneus and the inferior parietal lobule. No regions were identified in which the rMDD group showed significantly lower GM compared to the HC group after p-values were corrected for the number of comparisons performed.
In unmedicated patients in the depressed phase of MDD, we found evidence of morphometric abnormalities in DALPFC and in medial prefrontal cortical regions belonging to the visceromotor network. These findings, along with the absence of GM abnormalities in the remitted sample imply a possible link between greater GM tissue and better clinical outcome. Consistent with other neuroimaging and post-mortem neuropathological studies of MDD, we also found evidence of decreased white matter in patients with dMDD and rMDD.
PMCID: PMC3020249  PMID: 21073959
Voxel-based morphometry (VBM); remission; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC); gray matter; clinical outcome

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