Insular cortex abnormalities in psychotic major depression: Relationship to gender and psychotic symptoms

Cohen JD, Nichols T, Keller J, Gomez RG, Schatzberg AF, Reiss AL
Neurosci Res. 2013; Epub ahead of print.


Recent data suggests that psychotic major depression (PMD) may be a discrete disorder distinguishable from nonpsychotic major depression (NPMD), and that patients with PMD may be more similar to individuals with schizophrenia than individuals with NPMD. The insula is a brain region in which morphometric changes have been associated with psychotic symptom severity in schizophrenia and affective psychosis. It was hypothesized that insular volumes would be reduced in PMD compared to NPMD and controls, and insular volumes would correlate with psychosis but not depression severity. Insular gray matter volumes were measured in PMD and NPMD patients and matched healthy controls using magnetic resonance images and manual morphometry. Clinical measures of illness severity were obtained to determine their relationship with insular volume. Posterior insular volumes were significantly reduced in PMD compared to HC. There were also significant group-by-gender interactions for total, anterior and posterior insular volumes. Using Pearson product-moment correlations, anterior insular volumes did not correlate with depression severity. Left anterior insular volume was significantly correlated with total and positive symptom psychosis severity in the PMD group. Atypical insular morphometry may be related to the inability to distinguish between internally and externally generated sensory inputs characteristic of psychosis.