Occult subcortical magnetic resonance findings in elderly depressives

Cynthia M. Churchill, Christine V. Priolo, Charles B. Nemeroff, K. Ranga R. Krishnan, John C.S. Breitner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Hyperintense signal areas (HSA) on T2-weighted brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may reflect subtle cerebro-vascular insufficiency and are common in elderly depressives. We hypothesized that these HSAs may indicate a vascular etiology for depression in late life, and that patients with late-onset major depression (MDD) would therefore more often show HSAs than comparably aged recurrent depressives. We reviewed the brain MRI flndings of a consecutive series of inpatients aged 50 or over who were treated for MDD during an 18-month period. Patients with Parkinson's or other brain diseases predisposing to depression were not considered. Twenty-seven(82%) of 33 palients with depression first apparent in late life and nine (64%) of 14 patients with earlier-onset, recurrent depression showed HSAs. This difference did not reach statistical significance. It was not attributable to the older mean age of the late-onset group. These rates are in accord with an 86% rate reported in a series of patients referred for ECT (Coffey et al., 1988). They are much higher than the 20-30% figure for comparably aged normals (Bradley, 1984; Kirkpatrick and Hayman, 1987). HSAs were common in this series of elderly depressed inpatients, regardless of age of onset of illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-216
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Nuclear magnetic resonance
  • affective disorders
  • brain aged

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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