Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Depression Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Brain Structure Linked to Major Depression

Adolescents With Major Depression Have Smaller Hippocampus in Brain
By
WebMD Health News

Jan. 29, 2004 -- Teenagers suffering from major depression may have an abnormal brain structure, a new study shows.

Researchers have found that the hippocampus -- a part of the brain associated with motivation, emotion, and memory formation -- is smaller in adolescents with major depression.

"To our knowledge, this is the first [such] published report," writes lead researcher Frank P. MacMaster, a psychiatric researcher with the National Research Council in Halifax, Canada.

Major depressive disorder is just as common in adolescence as it is in adulthood, he explains. By studying younger patients, he hoped to see brain structure differences that could cause the disorder.

Because patients were young and had not yet been treated for depression, the effects of long-term illness or treatment would not affect the images, he explains.

In their study, MacMaster and colleagues from Dalhousie University studied 34 adolescents between ages 13 and 18, half of whom were suffering from major depressive disorder. Using highly sensitive MRI, they obtained brain scans of each teen and measured the volume of their left and right hippocampus.

Teens with major depression had 17% smaller hippocampus volume than the control group, reports MacMaster.

Males had more prominent hippocampus differences than did females, a finding that matches an earlier study, he notes.

Also, patients whose major depression had lasted longer had larger hippocampuses than the more recently diagnosed patients. This may indicate either a change related to duration of illness or the brain's attempt to normalize, he writes.

In other studies, cell death in the hippocampus has been linked with the number of days depressed, MacMaster adds.

Though preliminary, the results point toward brain changes that occur early in depression and deserve further examination -- to better understand the development of major depression, he writes.

His study appears in the recent issue of the journal BioMed Central Medicine.

SOURCE: MacMaster, F. BioMed Central Medicine, January 2004.

Today on WebMD

contemplation
Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
jk rowling
Famous people who've struggled with persistent sadness.
 
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
 
unhappy teen boy
Health Check
jk rowling
Slideshow
 
Pills with smiley faces
Article
Teen girl huddled outside house
Article
 
Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
Article
antidepressants slideshow
Article
 
pill bottle
Article
Winding path
Article