Relationship Between Hippocampal Volume, Serum BDNF, and Depression Severity Following Electroconvulsive Therapy in Late-Life Depression

Filip Bouckaert, Annemiek Dols, Louise Emsell, François-Laurent De Winter, Kristof Vansteelandt, Lene Claes, Stefan Sunaert, Max Stek, Pascal Sienaert, Mathieu Vandenbulcke

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Recent structural imaging studies have described hippocampal volume changes following electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). It has been proposed that serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (sBDNF)-mediated neuroplasticity contributes critically to brain changes following antidepressant treatment. To date no studies have investigated the relationship between changes in hippocampal volume, mood, and sBDNF following ECT. Here, we combine these measurements in a longitudinal study of severe late-life unipolar depression (LLD). We treated 88 elderly patients with severe LLD twice weekly until remission (Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) <10). sBDNF and MADRS were obtained before ECT (T0), after the sixth ECT (T1), 1 week after the last ECT (T2), 4 weeks after the last ECT (T3), and 6 months after the last ECT (T4). Hippocampal volumes were quantified by manual segmentation of 3T structural magnetic resonance images in 66 patients at T0 and T2 and in 23 patients at T0, T2, and T4. Linear mixed models (LMM) were used to examine the evolution of MADRS, sBDNF, and hippocampal volume over time. Following ECT, there was a significant decrease in MADRS scores and a significant increase in hippocampal volume. Hippocampal volume decreased back to baseline values at T4. Compared with T0, sBDNF levels remained unchanged at T1, T2, and T3. There was no coevolution between changes in MADRS scores, hippocampal volume, and sBDNF. Hippocampal volume increase following ECT is an independent neurobiological effect unrelated to sBDNF and depressive symptomatology, suggesting a complex mechanism of action of ECT in LLD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2741-8
Number of pages8
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Journal Article

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