Journal article

Cerebral perfusion in depression: Relationship to sex, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and depression severity


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  • 2021
Published in:
  • NeuroImage: Clinical. - Amsterdam : Elsevier BV. - 2021, vol. 32, p. 1-9
English Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disease burden and shows a marked sexual dimorphism. Previous studies reported changes in cerebral perfusion in MDD, an association between perfusion and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels, and large sex differences in perfusion. This study examines whether perfusion and DHEAS might mediate the link between sex and depressive symptoms in a large, unmedicated community sample.

Methods: The sample included 203 healthy volunteers and 79 individuals with past or current MDD. Depression severity was assessed with the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D) and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). 3 T MRI perfusion data were collected with a pseudocontinuous arterial spin labelling sequence and DHEAS was measured in serum by LC-MS/MS.

Results: Large sex differences in perfusion were observed (p < 0.001). Perfusion was negatively correlated with DHEAS (r = -0.23, p < 0.01, n = 250) and with depression severity (HAM-D: r = -0.17, p = 0.01, n = 242; partial Spearman correlation, controlling for age and sex), but not with anxiety. A significant sex*perfusion interaction on depression severity was observed. In women, perfusion showed more pronounced negative correlations with depressive symptoms, with absent or, in the case of the MADRS, opposite effects observed in men. A mediation analysis identified DHEAS and perfusion as mediating variables influencing the link between sex and the HAM-D score.

Conclusion: Perfusion was linked to depression severity, with the strongest effects observed in women. Perfusion and the neurosteroid DHEAS appear to mediate the link between sex and HAM-D scores, suggesting that inter-individual differences in perfusion and DHEAS levels may contribute to the sexual dimorphism in depression.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Master en médecine
  • English
Pathology, clinical medicine
Open access status
Persistent URL

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