Chapter

The Hippocampus in Major Depression

Glenda M. MacQueen and Thomas Frodl

in The Clinical Neurobiology of the Hippocampus

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592388
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949922 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592388.003.0015
The Hippocampus in Major Depression

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Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by one or more episodes of major depression and the absence of episodes of mania or hypomania. A major depressive episode is characterized by at least 2 weeks of pervasive low mood or loss of pleasure that occurs along with a variety of other emotional, cognitive, or neurovegetative symptoms. This chapter summarizes the clinical and neurobiological correlates and concepts of smaller hippocampal volumes in MDD. Preclinical data describe the molecular and cellular effects of chronic stress and antidepressant treatment on the hippocampus, providing plausible mechanisms through which MDD might lead to decreased hippocampal volumes. Patients with smaller hippocampal volumes are at risk for a poor clinical outcome and this may be a mechanism through which MDD appears to be an additional risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The pathways through which stress may be linked to MDD, the emergence of disease chronicity or treatment resistance in MDD, and the association between MDD and memory problems may be at least partially understood by dissecting the association with depression and structural and functional changes in the hippocampus. MDD now appears to be a disorder that is associated with persistent morphological brain changes that are detectable before illness onset and which can be modified by clinical and treatment variables.

Keywords: hippocampus; depression; imaging; mood disorders; magnetic resonance imaging; cognition; therapy prediction; neuroplasticity

Chapter.  10858 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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