The basal ganglia form a part of the brain neuroanatomic circuits that may be involved in mood regulation. Decreases in basal ganglia volumes have been previously reported in major depressive disorder patients in comparison to healthy controls. In this study, we measured caudate, putamen, and globus pallidus volumes in 25 patients with major depressive disorder (4 M; age+/-S.D.=41+/-11 years) and 48 healthy controls (29 M; age+/-S.D.=35+/-10 years), using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in an attempt to replicate prior findings. Unlike most previous studies, we did not find significant differences between patient and control groups in basal ganglia volumetric measures. Nonetheless, there was a significant interaction between diagnosis and cerebral hemisphere, with MDD patients showing decreased asymmetry in globus pallidus volumes in comparison with healthy controls. Furthermore, in the patient group, left putamen volumes correlated inversely with length of illness, and left globus pallidus volume correlated directly with number of prior depressive episodes. These findings suggest that abnormalities in lateralization and possibly neurodegenerative changes in basal ganglia structures participate in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder.
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