Putamen Structure and Function in Familial Risk for Depression: A Multimodal Imaging Study

Ardesheer Talati*, Milenna T. van Dijk, Lifang Pan, Xuejun Hao, Zhishun Wang, Marc Gameroff, Zhengchao Dong, Jürgen Kayser, Stewart Shankman, Priya J. Wickramaratne, Jonathan Posner, Myrna M. Weissman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: The putamen has been implicated in depressive disorders, but how its structure and function increase depression risk is not clearly understood. Here, we examined how putamen volume, neuronal density, and mood-modulated functional activity relate to family history and prospective course of depression. Methods: The study includes 115 second- and third-generation offspring at high or low risk for depression based on the presence or absence of major depressive disorder in the first generation. Offspring were followed longitudinally using semistructured clinical interviews blinded to their familial risk; putamen structure, neuronal integrity, and functional activation were indexed by structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (N-acetylaspartate/creatine ratio), and functional MRI activity modulated by valence and arousal components of a mood induction task, respectively. Results: After adjusting for covariates, the high-risk individuals had lower putamen volume (standardized betas, β-left = −0.17, β-right = −0.15, ps = .002), N-acetylaspartate/creatine ratio (β-left= −0.40, β-right= −0.37, ps < .0001), and activation modulated by valence (β-left = −0.22, β-right = −0.27, ps < .05) than low-risk individuals. Volume differences were greater at younger ages, and N-acetylaspartate/creatine ratio differences were greater at older ages. Lower putamen volume also predicted major depressive disorder episodes up to 8 years after the scan (β-left = −0.72, p = .013; β-right = −0.83, p = .037). Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and task functional MRI measures were modestly correlated (0.27 ≤ r ≤ 0.33). Conclusions: Findings demonstrate abnormalities in putamen structure and function in individuals at high risk for major depressive disorder. Future studies should focus on this region as a potential biomarker for depressive illness, noting meanwhile that differences attributable to family history may peak at different ages based on which MRI modality is being used to assay them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)932-941
Number of pages10
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2022


  • High-risk
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Multimodal imaging
  • Putamen
  • Research Domain Criteria (RDoC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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