Influence of age of onset on limbic and paralimbic structures in depression
Major depressive disorder (MDD) onset during childhood/adolescence is associated with a greater illness burden and distinct clinical profile. However, limited research exists on the effect of age of MDD onset on volumetric abnormalities in para/limbic structures during adulthood.
Subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC), hippocampus and caudate nucleus volumes were measured by manual tracing in depressed individuals (n = 45) and healthy controls (HC; n = 19). Volumetric comparisons were carried out between HC and MDD patients divided into those with pediatric (≤18 years; n = 17) and adult onset (≥19 years; n = 28).
The adult MDD-onset group had smaller sgACC volumes than the pediatric-onset and HC groups (age, sex controlled). No differences in caudate and hippocampus volumes existed. sgACC and hippocampal volumes were inversely correlated with depression severity.
Surprisingly, pediatric MDD-onset was not associated with more pronounced sgACC, hippocampus and caudate volume reductions. Nevertheless, age of illness onset appears to be a meaningful dimension of study in efforts to understand the neurobiological heterogeneity of MDD.