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Background White matter microstructure alterations of limbic and reward pathways have been reported repeatedly for depressive episodes in major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD). However, findings during remission are equivocal. It was the aim of this study to investigate if white matter microstructure changes during the time course of clinical remission. Methods Fifteen depressed patients (11 MDD, 4 BD) underwent diffusion-weighted MRI both during depression, and during remission following successful antidepressive treatment (average time interval between scans=6 months). Fractional anisotropy (FA) was sampled along reconstructions of the supero-lateral medial forebrain bundle (slMFB), the cingulum bundle (CB), the uncinate fasciculus (UF), the parahippocampal cingulum (PHC) and the fornix. Repeated measures ANCOVAs controlling for the effect of age were calculated for each tract. Results There was a significant main effect of time (inter-scan interval) for mean-FA for the right CB and for the left PHC. For both pathways there was a significant time×age interaction. In the right CB, FA increased in younger patients, while FA decreased in older patients. In the left PHC, a reverse pattern was seen. FA changes in the right CB correlated positively with symptom reductions. Mean-FA of UF, slMFB and fornix did not change between the two time points. Limitations All patients were medicated, sample size, and lack of control group. Conclusions Right CB and left PHC undergo age-dependent plastic changes during the course of remission and may serve as a state marker in depression. UF, slMFB and FO microstructure remains stable.

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