Autonomous neurobiological pathways to late-life major depressive disorder: Clinical and pathophysiological implications

Anand Kumar, Jim Mintz, Warren Bilker, Gary Gottlieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The objective of our study was to elucidate distinct paths to depression in a model that incorporates age, measures of medical comorbidity, neuroanatomical compromise, and cognitive status in a sample of patients with late-life major depressive disorder (MDD) and nondepressed controls. Our study was cross-sectional in nature and utilized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) estimates of brain and high-intensity lesion volumes together with clinical indices of cerebrovascular and nonvascular medical comorbidity. Neuroanatomic and clinical measures were incorporated into a structural covariance model in order to test pathways to MDD. Our data indicate that there are two paths to MDD; one path is represented by vascular and nonvascular medical comorbidity that contribute to high-intensity lesions that lead to depression. Smaller brain volumes represent a distinct path to the mood disorder. Age influences depression by increasing atrophy and overall medical comorbidity but has no direct impact on MDD. These findings demonstrate that there are distinct biological substrates to the neuroanatomical changes captured on MRI. These observations further suggest that neurobiological mechanisms acting in parallel may compromise brain structure/function, thereby predisposing individuals to clinical brain disorders such as depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-236
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Atrophy
  • High-intensity lesions
  • Late-life depression
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Major depression
  • Path analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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