Gender-specific structural abnormalities in major depressive disorder revealed by fixel-based analysis.



Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a chronic disease with a large global impact. There are currently no clinically useful predictors of treatment outcome, and the development of biomarkers to inform clinical treatment decisions is highly desirable.


In this exploratory study we performed fixel-based analysis of diffusion MRI data from the International Study to Predict Optimized Treatment in Depression with the aim of identifying novel biomarkers at baseline that may relate to diagnosis and outcome to treatment with antidepressant medications. Analyses used MR data from individuals with MDD (n = 221) and healthy controls (n = 67).


We show focal, gender-specific differences in the anterior limb of the internal capsule (males) and bilaterally in the genu of the corpus callosum (females) associated with diagnosis. Lower fibre cross-section in the tapetum, the conduit between the right and left hippocampi, were also associated with a decreased probability of remission. Analysis of conventional fractional anisotropy showed scattered abnormalities in the corona radiata, cerebral peduncles and mid-brain which were much lower in total volume compared to fixel-based analysis.


Fixel-based analysis appeared to identify different underlying abnormalities than conventional tensor-based metrics, with almost no overlap between significant regions. We show that MDD is associated with gender specific abnormalities in the genu of the corpus callosum (females) and in the anterior limb of the internal capsule (males), as well as gender-independent differences in the tapetum that predict remission. Diffusion MRI may play a key role in future guidance of clinical decision-making for MDD.





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Publication Info

Lyon, Matt, Thomas Welton, Adrina Varda, Jerome J Maller, Kathryn Broadhouse, Mayuresh S Korgaonkar, Stephen H Koslow, Leanne M Williams, et al. (2019). Gender-specific structural abnormalities in major depressive disorder revealed by fixel-based analysis. NeuroImage. Clinical, 21. p. 101668. 10.1016/j.nicl.2019.101668 Retrieved from

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