Prefrontal brain morphology and executive function in healthy and depressed elderly

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Geriatric Division, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1759, USA.
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 2.87). 05/2009; 24(5):459-68. DOI: 10.1002/gps.2137
Source: PubMed


Late-life depression is known to correlate independently with decreased brain volumes in anterior cingulate, gyrus rectus and orbitofrontal cortex and with executive dysfunction, but the relationship between morphometry of reduced volume regions and executive dysfunction has not been well defined.
Nondepressed and depressed elders completed five executive tests, a standard panel of laboratory tests and magnetic resonance imaging. Images of the prefrontal cortex were manually masked and automatically segmented and regional brain volumes were calculated. Executive scores and error rates were regressed on bilateral white and gray matter volumes of anterior cingulate, gyrus rectus and orbitofrontal.
Gyrus rectus was associated positively with scores on sequencing and nonverbal abstract reasoning, and negatively with two fluency error scores. Four positive interactions indicated that performance of controls was more closely associated with increased volume than that of depressed patients. Anterior cingulate was associated positively with two nonverbal reasoning tasks and with three positive interactions. Orbitofrontal volumes were negatively associated with correct responses and errors on two fluency tasks. One interaction showed controls' performance decreased more than depressed patients with increased volume.
Individual executive tasks correlate positively with volumes of anterior cingulate and gyrus rectus regions and negatively with orbitofrontal region. The orbitofrontal relationship suggests a loss of inhibitory control with decreased volume because both correct and incorrect answers on fluency tasks increased per unit decrease in volume.

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    • "The brain circuitry supporting adult levels of inhibitory control centers on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), within which the ventral prefrontal cortex (VPFC) is proposed to play a primary role. Imaging studies of frontal gray matter volume reveal distinctly non-linear changes during development, with peak volume arising around 11–12 years of age (being somewhat earlier in females), followed by a rapid decline during adolescence (Gogtay and Thompson, 2010) and further decreases in volume in older adulthood (Elderkin-Thompson et al., 2009). In conjunction with these changes, recent evidence indicates that inhibitory processing in different subdivisions of PFC exhibits different operating characteristics before and after the onset of puberty (Luna et al., 2010). "
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