Jul 21

A study has found that people with depression have smaller hippocampal volumes than healthy individuals.

The hippocampus is a brain region involved in learning and memory, spatial navigation, and the evaluation of complex life situations or “contexts”.

However, because in prior studies hippocampal volume was only measured in people once they became depressed, it has been unclear whether a small hippocampus renders a person vulnerable to developing depression, or whether it is a consequence of depression.

A new study has approached that problem by following a large population of elderly individuals over a 10-year period.

Researchers performed an initial imaging scan on subjects to obtain a baseline measurement of their hippocampal volume and then performed follow-up scans 5 and 10 years later.

During this time, they also repeatedly assessed the individuals for both depressive symptoms and depressive disorders.

“We found that persons with a smaller hippocampus were not at higher risk to develop depression. In contrast, those with depression declined in volume over time,” corresponding author Dr. Tom den Heijer explained.

“Our study therefore suggests that a small hippocampal volume in depressed patients is more likely an effect of the depression rather than a cause,” he revealed.

Future studies will be needed to better understand whether current treatments protect the hippocampus and hippocampal function.

The findings have been published in Biological Psychiatry.

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Tags: Associated Depression , Depression

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