Quantitative Cytoarchitectonic Findings in Postmortem Brain Tissue from Mood Disorder Patients

  • Grazyna Rajkowska
Part of the Neurobiological Foundation of Aberrant Behaviors book series (NFAB, volume 4)


A considerable body of pharmacological and neurochemical literature has accumulated on affective disorders. Until recently, however, there have been no quantitative neuroanatomical studies of these disorders at the microscopic level. Clinical neuroimaging studies and pre-clinical animal studies, however, strongly suggest that cell atrophy, cell loss or impairments in neuroplasticity and cellular resilience may underlie the neurobiology of primary mood disorders (i.e., major depressive disorder and bipolar manic-depressive disorder).

Recent quantitative cytoarchitectonic studies on postmortem tissues from patients with mood disorders provide direct evidence that mood disorders are characterized by specific changes in the number, density or size of both neurons and glial cells. Although published reports are scarce and based on rather small sample sizes, these studies are surprisingly consistent in revealing previously unrecognized reductions in glial cell number and density as well as alterations in the density and/or size of specific types of cortical neurons in frontal limbic brain regions.

This chapter reviews the current findings from stereological and morphometric postmortem studies on glia and neurons in primary mood disorders. The relevance of cellular changes in mood disorders to dysfunctional monoaminergic and glutamatergic circuits and a possible role of neurotrophic and neuroprotective factors in cell pathology is discussed. A possible link between cellular changes in mood disorders and the action of psychotherapeutic drugs is suggested as well.


Prefrontal Cortex Anterior Cingulate Cortex Mood Disorder Dorsal Raphe Neuronal Density 
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  • Grazyna Rajkowska

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