Animal models of depression repeatedly showed stress-induced nucleus accumbens (NAc) hypertrophy. Recently, ketamine was found to normalize this stress-induced NAc structural growth. Here, we investigated NAc structural abnormalities in major depressive disorder (MDD) in two cohorts. Cohort A included a cross-sectional sample of 34 MDD and 26 healthy control (HC) subjects, with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to estimate NAc volumes. Proton MR spectroscopy (1H MRS) was used to divide MDD subjects into two subgroups: glutamate-based depression (GBD) and non-GBD. A separate longitudinal sample (cohort B) included 16 MDD patients who underwent MRI at baseline then 24 h following intravenous infusion of ketamine (0.5 mg/kg). In cohort A, we found larger left NAc volume in MDD compared to controls (Cohen’s d=1.05), but no significant enlargement in the right NAc (d=0.44). Follow-up analyses revealed significant subgrouping effects on the left (d⩾1.48) and right NAc (d⩾0.95) with larger bilateral NAc in non-GBD compared to GBD and HC. NAc volumes were not different between GBD and HC. In cohort B, ketamine treatment reduced left NAc, but increased left hippocampal, volumes in patients achieving remission. The cross-sectional data provided the first evidence of enlarged NAc in patients with MDD. These NAc abnormalities were limited to patients with non-GBD. The pilot longitudinal data revealed a pattern of normalization of left NAc and hippocampal volumes particularly in patients who achieved remission following ketamine treatment, an intriguing preliminary finding that awaits replication.

Abdallah, C. G., Jackowski, A., Salas, R., Gupta, S., Sato, J. R., Mao, X., … & Mathew, S. J. (2017). The nucleus accumbens and ketamine treatment in major depressive disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology1, 8. 10.1038/npp.2017.49

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