Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 221, Issue 1, pp 171–184 | Cite as

Basolateral amygdala volume and cell numbers in major depressive disorder: a postmortem stereological study

  • Marisa J. RubinowEmail author
  • Gouri Mahajan
  • Warren May
  • James C. Overholser
  • George J. Jurjus
  • Lesa Dieter
  • Nicole Herbst
  • David C. Steffens
  • Jose J. Miguel-Hidalgo
  • Grazyna Rajkowska
  • Craig A. Stockmeier
Original Article


Functional imaging studies consistently report abnormal amygdala activity in major depressive disorder (MDD). Neuroanatomical correlates are less clear: imaging studies have produced mixed results on amygdala volume, and postmortem neuroanatomic studies have only examined cell densities in portions of the amygdala or its subregions in MDD. Here, we present a stereological analysis of the volume of, and the total number of, neurons, glia, and neurovascular (pericyte and endothelial) cells in the basolateral amygdala in MDD. Postmortem tissues from 13 subjects with MDD and 10 controls were examined. Sections (~15/subject) taken throughout the rostral–caudal extent of the basolateral amygdala (BLA) were stained for Nissl substance and utilized for stereological estimation of volume and cell numbers. Results indicate that depressed subjects had a larger lateral nucleus than controls and a greater number of total BLA neurovascular cells than controls. There were no differences in the number or density of neurons or glia between depressed and control subjects. These findings present a more detailed picture of BLA cellular anatomy in depression than has previously been available. Further studies are needed to determine whether the greater number of neurovascular cells in depressed subjects may be related to increased amygdala activity in depression.


Amygdala Depression Stereology Postmortem brain Cell numbers 



We acknowledge the invaluable contributions made by the families consenting to donate brain tissue and be interviewed. We also thank the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office and staff, Cleveland, Ohio, for their willing assistance. For some of the subjects, the services of Timothy M. De Jong and Lisa Larkin in acquiring written consent and tissue collection, respectively, are gratefully acknowledged. This study was supported by Public Health Service Grant Nos. P30 GM103328 (CAS), MH67996 (CAS), and MH054846 (DCS), and a postdoctoral grant from the Hearin Foundation (MJR). Funding sources had no other role in the study design or in the analysis or interpretation of data.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marisa J. Rubinow
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gouri Mahajan
    • 1
  • Warren May
    • 2
  • James C. Overholser
    • 3
  • George J. Jurjus
    • 4
    • 5
  • Lesa Dieter
    • 3
  • Nicole Herbst
    • 4
  • David C. Steffens
    • 6
  • Jose J. Miguel-Hidalgo
    • 1
  • Grazyna Rajkowska
    • 1
  • Craig A. Stockmeier
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorUniversity of Mississippi Medical CenterJacksonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Center of BiostatisticsUniversity of Mississippi Medical CenterJacksonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  5. 5.Cleveland VA Medical CenterClevelandUSA
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Connecticut Health CenterFarmingtonUSA

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