Outward subcortical curvature associated with sub-clinical depression symptoms in adolescents

Lisanne M. Jenkins*, Jessica J. Chiang, Katherine Vause, Lauren Hoffer, Kathryn Alpert, Todd B. Parrish, Gregory E. Miller, Lei Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Subclinical or subthreshold depressive symptoms (StD) are frequent in adolescence and are related to suicidality and onset of depression in adulthood, however, their neurobiology is poorly understood. We examined the relationship between StD and subcortical grey matter structures in unmedicated adolescents with no history of axis I diagnosis. Methods: 277 youths from Chicago aged 14 years participated, undergoing a structural MRI scan and completing the Revised Children's Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS). Blood samples provided a composite of five pro-inflammatory cytokines. Regions of interest (ROI) for vertex-based surface analysis were the left and right amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, caudate, nucleus accumbens, pallidum and putamen. Covariates were age, pubertal status, socioeconomic disadvantage and intracranial volume. Males and females were analysed separately. Results: StD had positive associations (outward shape) with subcortical morphology in the right amygdala and left hippocampus in females, and the bilateral putamen and the left caudate, hippocampus and thalamus in males. However, we also found negative associations with StD (inward contractions) in the hippocampus in females and the caudate in males. Pro-inflammatory cytokines did not mediate the relationship between StD and outward morphology or volume. Conclusion: This is one of the first studies to examine subcortical morphology of basal ganglia and thalamic regions related to StD in adolescents, and the first study to report mostly positive associations between StD, volume and outward morphology in youths. These findings could reflect intact neurogenesis or resilience to depression, however longitudinal research is needed to further understand the neurobiology of StD in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102187
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2020


  • MRI
  • Morphometry
  • Sub-clinical depression
  • Subcortical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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