Effects of childhood adversity on the volumes of the amygdala subnuclei and hippocampal subfields in individuals with major depressive disorder

Effects of childhood adversity on the volumes of the amygdala subnuclei and hippocampal subfields in individuals with major depressive disorder

J Psychiatry Neurosci 2021;46(1):E186-E195 | PDF | Appendix

Arash Aghamohammadi-Sereshki, PhD; Nicholas J. Coupland, MB, ChB; Peter H. Silverstone, MD; Yushan Huang, MSc; Kathleen M. Hegadoren, PhD; Rawle Carter, MSc; Peter Seres, MScE; Nikolai V. Malykhin, MD, PhD

Background: Reductions in total hippocampus volume have frequently been reported in MRI studies in major depressive disorder (MDD), but reports of differences in total amygdala volume have been inconsistent. Childhood maltreatment is an important risk factor for MDD in adulthood and may affect the volume of the hippocampus and amygdala. In the present study, we examined associations between the volumes of the amygdala subnuclei and hippocampal subfields and history of childhood maltreatment in participants with MDD.

Methods: We recruited 35 patients who met the DSM-IV criteria for MDD and 35 healthy controls. We acquired MRI data sets on a 4.7 T Varian Inova scanner. We manually delineated the amygdala subnuclei (lateral, basal and accessory basal nuclei, and the cortical and centromedial groups) and hippocampal subfields (cornu ammonis, subiculum and dentate gyrus) using reliable volumetric methods. We assessed childhood maltreatment using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire in participants with MDD.

Results: In participants with MDD, a history of childhood maltreatment had significant negative associations with volume in the right amygdala, anterior hippocampus and total cornu ammonis subfield bilaterally. For volumes of the amygdala subnuclei, such effects were limited to the basal, accessory basal and cortical subnuclei in the right hemisphere, but they did not survive correction for multiple comparisons. We did not find significant effects of MDD or antidepressant treatment on volumes of the amygdala subnuclei.

Limitations: Our study was a cross-sectional study.

Conclusion: Our results provide evidence of negative associations between history of childhood maltreatment and volumes of medial temporal lobe structures in participants with MDD. This may help to identify potential mechanisms by which maltreatment leads to clinical impacts.


Submitted Feb. 15, 2020; Revised Jun. 30, 2020; Accepted Aug. 14, 2020

Affiliations: From the Department of Radiology, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alta., Canada (Aghamohammadi-Sereshki); the Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada (Coupland, Silverstone, Carter, Malykhin); the Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada (Huang, Carter, Seres, Malykhin); the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada (Hegadoren); and the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta., Canada (Malykhin).

Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research operating grant (MOP111049 to NVM). The authors are thankful to all individuals who participated in this research.

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: N. Coupland, P. Silverstone, K. Hegadoren and N. Malykhin designed the study. A. Aghamohammadi-Sereshki, P. Silverstone, Y. Huang, R. Carter, P. Seres and N. Malykhin acquired the data, which A. Aghamohammadi-Sereshki, N. Coupland, P. Silverstone, Y. Huang, K. Hegadoren and N. Malykhin analyzed. A. Aghamohammadi-Sereshki, P. Silverstone and N. Malykhin wrote the article, which all authors reviewed. All authors approved the final version to be published and can certify that no other individuals not listed as authors have made substantial contributions to the paper.

Content licence: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original publication is properly cited, the use is non-commercial (i.e. research or educational use), and no modifications or adaptations are made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

DOI: 10.1503/jpn.200034

Correspondence to: N.V. Malykhin, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada; nikolai@ualberta.ca