Ultra-high field imaging in Major Depressive Disorder: a review of structural and functional studies

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Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a severe and pervasive psychiatric condition with a lifetime prevalence of 15–25%. Numerous Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies employing scans at field strengths of 1.5T or 3T have been carried out in the last decades, providing an unprecedented insight into the neural correlates of MDD. However, in recent years, MRI technology has largely progressed and the use of scans at ultra-high field (≥ 7T) has improved the sensitivity and the resolution of MR images. In this context, with this review we aim to summarize evidence of structural and functional brain mechanisms underlying MDD obtained with ultra-high field MRI. Methods: :We conducted a search on PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science of neuroimaging studies on MDD patients, which employed ultra-high field MRI. We detected six structural MRI studies, two Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) studies and five functional MRI (fMRI) studies. Results: Overall, the MRI and DTI studies showed volumetric and structural connectivity alterations in the hippocampus and, to a lesser extent, in the amygdala. In contrast, more heterogeneous results were reported by fMRI studies, which, though, described functional abnormalities in the cingulate cortex, thalamus and several other brain areas. Limitations: The small sample size and the heterogeneity in patients' samples, processing and study design limit the conclusion of the present review. Conclusions: Studies employing scans at ultra-high magnetic field may provide a useful contribution to the mixed body of literature on MDD. This preliminary but promising evidence confirms the importance of performing ultra-high field MRI investigations in order to detect and better characterize subtle brain abnormalities in MDD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2021


  • 7 Tesla
  • DTI
  • fMRI
  • Major depressive disorder
  • MRI
  • Ultra-high field

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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