Cerqueira, J. J. et al. Corticosteroid status influences the volume of the rat cingulate cortex - a magnetic resonance imaging study. J. Psychiatr. Res. 39, 451-460

Neuroscience Group, Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal.
Journal of Psychiatric Research (Impact Factor: 3.96). 10/2005; 39(5):451-60. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2005.01.003
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Imbalances in the corticosteroid milieu result in reductions in hippocampal volume in humans and experimental rodents. The functional correlates of these changes include deficits in cognitive performance and regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Since other limbic structures which are intricately connected with the hippocampal formation, also play an important role in behavioural and neuroendocrine functions, we here used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to analyse how two of these areas, the anterior cingulate and retrosplenial cortex, respond to chronic alterations of adrenocortical status: hypocortisolism (induced by adrenalectomy, ADX), normocortisolism (ADX with low-dose corticosterone replacement), and hypercortisolism (ADX with high-dose dexamethasone supplementation). Hypercortisolism was associated with a significant reduction in the volume (absolute and normalized) of the left anterior cingulate gyrus as measured by MRI and confirmed using classical histological methods; a similar trend was observed in the right anterior cingulate region. In contrast, hypercortisolism did not influence the volume of the adjacent retrosplenial cortex. The volumes of the anterior cingulate gyrus and retrosplenial cortex were unaffected by the absence of adrenocortical hormones. These findings are the first to suggest that corticosteroid influences on the structure of the limbic system extend beyond the hippocampal formation, i.e., to fronto-limbic areas also.

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