Depression is one of the common psychiatric disorders in old age. Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been identified as a risk factor or prodrome for neurodegenerative dementias, suggesting neuropathological overlaps and a continuum between MDD and neurodegenerative disorders. In this study, we examined tau and amyloid-β (Aβ) accumulations in the brains of MDD and healthy controls using positron emission tomography (PET) to explore pathological substrates of this illness. Twenty MDD and twenty age-matched, healthy controls were examined by PET with a tau radioligand, [11C]PBB3, and an Aβ radioligand, [11C]PiB. Radioligand retentions were quantified as a standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR). We also assessed clinical manifestations of the patients using the 17-item Hamilton Depression Scale, the Geriatric Depression Scale, and psychotic symptoms. Mean cortical [11C]PBB3 SUVRs in MDD patients were significantly higher than those of healthy controls. These values were higher in MDD patients with psychotic symptoms than in those without any. The present findings indicate that tau depositions may underlie MDD, and especially in patients with psychotic symptoms. PET detection of tau accumulations may provide mechanistic insights into neuronal dysfunctions in these cases and could serve as predictions of their clinical consequences.
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