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Organic bases of late-life depression: a critical update

  • Psychiatry and Preclinical Psychiatric Studies - Review article
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Abstract

Late-life depression (LLD) is frequently associated with cognitive impairment and increases the risk of subsequent dementia. Cerebrovascular disease, deep white matter lesions, Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) have all been hypothesized to contribute to this increased risk, and a host of studies have looked at the interplay between cerebrovascular disease and LLD. This has resulted in new concepts of LLD, such as “vascular depression”, but despite multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in this field, the relationship between structural changes in human brain and LLD is still controversial. While pathological findings of suicide in some elderly persons revealed multiple lacunes, small vessel cerebrovascular disease, AD-related lesions or multiple neurodegenerative pathologies, recent autopsy data challenged the role of subcortical lacunes and white matter lesions as major morphological substrates of depressive symptoms as well as poorer executive function and memory. Several neuropathological studies, including a personal clinico-pathological study in a small cohort of elderly persons with LLD and age-matched controls confirmed that lacunes, periventricular and deep white matter demyelination as well as AD-related lesions are usually unrelated to the occurrence of LLD. In the same line, neuropathological data show that early-onset depression is not associated with an acceleration of age-related neurodegenerative changes. Very recent data on the critical role of glia-modulating neuronal dysfunction and degeneration in depression are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The author thanks Mr. E.Mitter-Ferstl, PhD for secretarial work. The study was supported by the Society for Support of Research in Experimental Neurology, Vienna, Austria.

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Jellinger, K.A. Organic bases of late-life depression: a critical update. J Neural Transm 120, 1109–1125 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00702-012-0945-1

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