OBJECTIVE: Elevated levels of glucocorticoids in depression have been hypothesized to be associated with damage to the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory. The purpose of this study was to measure hippocampal volume in patients with depression. METHOD: Magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure the volume of the hippocampus in 16 patients with major depression in remission and 16 case-matched nondepressed comparison subjects. RESULTS: Patients with depression had a statistically significant 19% smaller left hippocampal volume than comparison subjects, without smaller volumes of comparison regions (amygdala, caudate, frontal lobe, and temporal lobe) or whole brain volume. The findings were significant after brain size, alcohol exposure, age, and education were controlled for. CONCLUSIONS: These findings are consistent with smaller left hippocampal volume in depression.
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