Hippocampal volume as a putative marker of resilience or compensation to minor depressive symptoms in a nonclinical sample

Bianca Besteher, Letizia Squarcina, Robert Spalthoff, Marcella Bellani, Christian Gaser, Paolo Brambilla, Igor Nenadić

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Case-control studies in major depression have established patterns of regional gray matter loss, including the hippocampus, which might show state-related effects dependent on disease stage. However, there is still limited knowledge on compensation effects that might occur in people resilient to depression showing only subclinical symptoms. We used voxel-based morphometry on a multicenter data set of 409 healthy nonclinical subjects to test the hypothesis that local hippocampal volume would be inversely correlated with subclinical depressive symptoms [Symptom Checklist 90-Revised (SCL-90-R) depression scores]. Our region-of-interest results show a significant (p = 0.042, FWE cluster-level corrected) positive correlation of SCL-90-R scores for depression and a left hippocampus cluster. Additionally, we provide an exploratory finding of gyrification, a surface-based morphometric marker, correlating with a right postcentral gyrus cluster [p = 0.031, family-wise error (FWE) cluster-level corrected]. Our findings provide first preliminary evidence of an inverse relationship for subjects in the absence of clinical depression and might thus point to processes related to compensation. Similar effects have been observed in remission from major depression and thus deserve further study to evaluate hippocampal volume not only as a state-dependent marker of disease but also of resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number467
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberJULY
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Depression
  • Gyrification
  • Healthy subjects
  • Imaging
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Subclinical
  • Surface-based morphometry
  • Voxel-based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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