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Evidence for structural and functional abnormality in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in major depressive disorder

  • E. Rodríguez-Cano (a1) (a2), S. Sarró (a1) (a3), G. C. Monté (a1) (a3), T. Maristany (a4), R. Salvador (a1) (a3), P. J. McKenna (a1) (a3) and E. Pomarol-Clotet (a1) (a3)...

The subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC) is considered to be an important site of abnormality in major depressive disorder. However, structural alterations in this region have not been a consistent finding and functional imaging studies have also implicated additional areas.


A total of 32 patients with major depressive disorder, currently depressed, and 64 controls underwent structural imaging with MRI. Also, 26 patients and 52 controls were examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during performance of the n-back working memory task. Structural and functional changes were evaluated using whole-brain, voxel-based methods.


The depressed patients showed volume reductions in the sgACC and orbitofrontal cortex bilaterally, plus in both temporal poles and the hippocampus/parahippocampal gyrus on the left. Functional imaging revealed task-related hypoactivation in the left lateral prefrontal cortex and other regions, as well as failure of deactivation in a subcallosal medial frontal cortical area which included the sgACC.


Whole-brain, voxel-based analysis finds evidence of both structural and functional abnormality in the sgACC in major depressive disorder. The fact that the functional changes in this area took the form of failure of deactivation adds to previous findings of default mode network dysfunction in the disorder.

Corresponding author
* Address for correspondence: P. J. McKenna, FIDMAG, Germanes Hospitalàries, Benito Menni CASM, C/. Dr Antoni Pujadas 38, 08830 Sant Boi de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain. (Email:
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