Background: Many recent studies have identified white matter abnormalities in late life depression (LLD). These abnormalities include an increased volume of discrete white matter hyperintensities on T2-weighted imaging (WMH) and changes in the diffusion tensor properties of water. However, no study of LLD to date has examined the integrity of white matter outside of WMH (i.e., in normal-appearing white matter). Methods: We performed T1- and T2-weighted imaging as well as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in depressed elderly subjects (n = 73) and nondepressed control subjects (n = 23) matched for age and cerebrovascular risk factors. The structural images were segmented into white matter, gray matter, cerebrospinal fluid, and WMH. The DTI parameters were calculated in white matter regions of interest after excluding the WMH. Results: Compared with control subjects, in the LLD group there were widespread abnormalities in DTI parameters, particularly in prefrontal regions. From a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, the strongest correlations were observed between cognitive processing speed and DTI abnormalities. Conclusions: These results suggest that further investigation is warranted to determine potential reversibility and/or prognosis in LLD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-252
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009


  • Depression
  • MRI
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • geriatrics
  • segmentation


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