Putamen Volume Differences Among Older Adults: Depression Status, Melancholia, and Age

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Individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) may exhibit smaller striatal volumes reflecting deficits in the reward circuit. Deficits may change with age and be more pronounced among the melancholic subtype. Limited research has investigated striatal volume differences in older adults and by depression subtypes.


We used baseline data from the Neurocognitive Outcomes of Depression in the Elderly study. We examined volumetric differences in the putamen and caudate nucleus among older adults (60 years and older), comparing healthy control participants (n = 134) to depressed participants (n = 226), and comparing nonmelancholic depressed participants (n = 93) to melancholic depressed participants (n = 133). Group-by-age interactions were examined.


There were no significant group differences for the caudate nucleus. For the left putamen, investigation of the significant group-by-age interaction revealed that volume size was greater for the healthy controls compared to the depressed participants but only at younger ages (60-65 years); group differences diminished with increasing age. Examining volume by depression subtype revealed that the melancholic depressed participants had a smaller left putamen compared to the nonmelancholic depressed participants. Anhedonia symptoms were related to both smaller left and right putamen.


Structural abnormalities in reward regions may underlie the anhedonic phenotype. Volume loss associated with MDD may attenuate in older age.

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