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Brain Regions Associated with Depression

Imaging studies have shown that Depression is associated with impaired functioning of key brain regions known to mediate mood, interest and stress responsivity, such as the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate gyrus, amygdala, hippocampus and basal ganglia.  

In chronic and severe forms of Depression, the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and basal ganglia all seem to be reduced in size, which may be the result of elevated corticosteroid levels in the brain, but which may also reflect a preexisting vulnerability to Depression [ref].   It is believed that these brain regions lose volume due to a decrease in Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), which is a substance that induces the growth of neurons in the brain but which is blocked by corticosteroids, stress and Depression [ref].  Antidepressants have been shown to reverse these effects and to stimulate the action of BDNF [ref].    

There is emerging evidence that a technique called Deep Brain Stimulation, which focuses electrical stimulation to a small and precise location in the brain, can treat severe forms of Depression when applied to the cingulate gyrus, specifically Brodmann's area 25 [ref].  This suggests that Brodmann's area 25 is particularly important as a brain region that mediates Depression.

 

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Genetic Causes

Neurotransmitters