Study finds hippocampus inflammation, depression link

July 08, 2016

A new study suggests that inflammation of the hippocampus – a region of the brain implicated in the genesis and maintenance of depression and in the pathology of multiple sclerosis – could be the contributing cause of high rates of depression in MS. The authors argue an effective and targeted treatment of brain inflammation would help to restore brain function and protect against depression in MS.

The research team combined two brain imaging techniques to study the links between hippocampal immune response, functional connections, and depressive symptoms in 13 people with MS and 22 healthy subjects. Positron emission tomography (PET) measured activated microglia, a measure of immune response. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) assessed the strength of hippocampal connections to an extensive network of brain regions involved in emotion.

PET imaging found immune activation in the hippocampus of people with MS. They also found that more inflammation was linked to more severe symptoms of depression. Measurements of functional brain connections with fMRI during rest showed that immune activation in the hippocampus altered its connections with other brain regions.

The findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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