Structural and Functional Neuroimaging Studies in Major Depressive Disorder With Psychotic Features: A Critical Review

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The relationship between major depressive disorder with psychotic (MDDP) features and schizophrenia has long been recognized, and the neurobiological boundaries between these disorders can nowadays be investigated using neuroimaging techniques. This article provides a critical review of such studies, addressing how they support a dimensional approach to the nosology and pathophysiology of psychotic disorders. A proportion of neuroimaging studies carried out to date indicate that MDDP subjects display structural and functional abnormalities in some brain regions specifically implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders, such as the subgenual cingulate cortex. This reinforces the validity of the classification of MDDP in proximity to major depression without psychosis. There is some neuroimaging evidence that MDDP may be associated with additional brain abnormalities relative to nonpsychotic major depression although less prominently in comparison with findings from the neuroimaging literature on schizophrenia. Brain regions seen as critical both to emotional processing and to models of psychotic symptoms, such as the hippocampus, insula, and lateral prefrontal cortex, have been implicated in separate neuroimaging investigations of either schizophrenia or major depression, as well as in some studies that directly compared depressed patients with and without psychotic features. These brain regions are key targets for future studies designed to validate imaging phenotypes more firmly associated with MDDP, as well as to investigate the relationship between these phenotypes and possible etiological influences for MDDP.

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