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Neuroimaging genetics: new perspectives in research on major depression?


Dr Thomas Frodl, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Nussbaumstr. 7, 80336 Munich, Germany.


Objective:  Stress-related changes in the hippocampus are influenced by genetic factors. To enhance our understanding of both the interaction between the brain, behaviour and genetics and of biological mechanisms in mood disorders neuroimaging genetics provide a good opportunity.

Method:  A MEDLINE search was conducted to identify articles on neuroimaging genetics in major depression (MD).

Results:  Hippocampal volumes were found to be associated with polymorphisms in the promotor region of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) in patients with MD. Met-allele carriers of the BDNF (val66met) polymorphism had smaller hippocampal volumes in both patients and healthy controls when compared with homozygous val-allele carriers. Polymorphisms of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) and 5-HT1a receptor are associated with increased amygdala activation investigated with functional MRI in patients with MD.

Conclusion:  Genetic variants seem to modulate the effects of stress on hippocampal volumes as well as amygdala activity as well as the development of the brain.