• late-onset depression;
  • near-infrared spectroscopy;
  • Social Adaptation Self-Evaluation Scale;
  • vascular depression;
  • verbal fluency task

Aim:  Functional neuroimaging studies to date have indicated prefrontal dysfunction in late-onset major depression (LOD). The relationships between prefrontal dysfunction and clinical characteristics including social functioning, however, have been unclear. The objective of the present study was to evaluate prefrontal hemodynamic response related to an executive task in LOD and to assess the relationship between activation in the prefrontal regions and clinical characteristics including social functioning.

Methods:  Twenty-four subjects with LOD and 30 age- and gender-matched healthy subjects were recruited for the present study. Hemoglobin concentration changes in the prefrontal and superior temporal cortical surface area were measured during verbal fluency task (VFT) using 52-channel near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), which enables real-time monitoring of cerebral blood volume (CBV) in the cortical surface area.

Results:  The two groups had a distinct spatiotemporal pattern of oxy-hemoglobin concentration change; LOD patients had less activation in a broad area covering both prefrontal and superior temporal cortices than healthy controls. In addition, reduced activation of the frontopolar region had a significant positive correlation with lower self-assessment of social functioning scores in the patient group.

Conclusion:  Reduced frontopolar cortical activation was associated with social functioning impairment in patients with LOD, and NIRS may be an efficient clinical tool for monitoring these characteristics.