Background: The brain morphological changes in subthreshold depression (sD) have not been clarified. We examined the structural difference in regional gray matter volume between community-dwelling elderly subjects with sD and age-matched nondepressed normal subjects by voxel-based morphometry (VBM) based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Methods: Thirty-four community-dwelling elderly subjects with sD and 109 age-matched nondepressed normal subjects were studied by MRI. We defined subjects with sD as those who showed a Geriatric Depression Scale score of 15 or higher and a Mini Mental State Examination score of 22 or higher, and do not fulfill the criteria of major depressive disorder (MDD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders IV. We collected brain magnetic resonance images of 34 subjects with sD and 109 age-matched normal subjects, and analyzed the difference in regional gray matter volume between these two groups by VBM. Results: Male subjects with sD had significantly smaller volumes of the medial part of the bilateral frontal lobes and the right precentral gyrus than normal male subjects. Limitations: We have not clarified the discrepancy in the results of gender difference. Conclusions: Our study revealed that even community-dwelling elderly male subjects with sD show bilateral prefrontal gray matter volume reduction, which was reported to be observed in elderly patients with MDD, although there is no significant volume reduction in the hippocampus, which was also reported to be observed in MDD. Our study may contribute to clarifying the mechanism underlying brain pathological changes in sD. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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