Although hippocampal atrophy and altered functional brain responses to emotional stimuli have been found in major depressive disorder (MDD), the relationship between the two is not yet well understood. The present study focused on children with and without a history of preschool onset MDD (PO-MDD) and directly examined the relations between hippocampal volume and functional brain activation to affect-eliciting stimuli. Children completed annual diagnostic assessments starting at preschool. When children were school-aged, high-resolution structural MRI and task-related functional MRI data were acquired from N = 64 nonmedicated children. During fMRI, subjects were shown emotional faces. Results from the total sample indicated that smaller bilateral hippocampal volumes were associated with greater cortico-limbic (e.g., amygdala, hippocampus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) activation to sad or negative faces versus neutral faces. Left hippocampal volume was negatively associated with the cortico-limbic activation in both the PO-MDD and healthy children. Right hippocampal volume was negatively correlated with amygdala responses in the PO-MDD group, but not in the healthy comparison group. These findings suggest that there may be important interrelationships between reduced hippocampal volume and hyperactivation of brain responses in children, both those with and those without a history of PO-MDD.
- Preschool depression