Elevated amygdala activity to negative faces in young adults with early onset major depressive disorder

Mingtian Z, Shuqiao Y, Xiongzhao Z, Jinyao Y, Xueling Z, Xiang W, Yingzi L, Jian L, Wei W

Psychiatry Res 2012 Feb;201(2):107-12

PMID: 22398297


Abnormalities in amygdala activity have been implicated in adolescents and older adults with major depressive disorder (MDD), but few studies have focused on young adults with early-onset MDD. In this study, we measured amygdala activity in 27 young adults with early-onset MDD and 25 healthy controls (HC) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with an emotional processing task. Both groups showed significant bilateral activation within the amygdala to threat-related facial expressions. In the matching face task, the activations of the left amygdala, thalamus, prefrontal and temporal cortex were significantly greater while the activation of the right prefrontal was significantly lower for the MDD group compared with the HC group. For the MDD group, there was a significant positive correlation between the activity of the amygdala and scores on the Chinese version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Overall, our findings suggest that young adults with early-onset MDD may be characterized by abnormalities in nodes along the fronto-limbic pathways when facing threat-related facial expression.