Late-life depression (LLD) is associated with a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the role of AD-pathophysiology in LLD, and its association with clinical symptoms and cognitive function are elusive. In this study, one hundred subjects underwent amyloid positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with [18F]-flutemetamol and structural MRI: 48 severely depressed elderly subjects (age 74.1 ± 7.5 years, 33 female) and 52 age-/gender-matched healthy controls (72.4 ± 6.4 years, 37 female). The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) were used to assess the severity of depressive symptoms and episodic memory function respectively. Amyloid deposition was quantified using the standardized uptake value ratio. Whole-brain voxel-wise comparisons of amyloid deposition and gray matter volume (GMV) between LLD and controls were performed. Multivariate analysis of covariance was conducted to investigate the association of regional differences in amyloid deposition and GMV with clinical factors, including GDS and RAVLT. As a result, there were no significant group differences in amyloid deposition. In contrast, LLD showed significant lower GMV in the left temporal and parietal region. GMV reduction in the left temporal region was associated with episodic memory dysfunction, but not with depression severity. Regional GMV reduction was not associated with amyloid deposition. LLD is associated with lower GMV in regions that overlap with AD-pathophysiology, and which are associated with episodic memory function. The lack of corresponding associations with amyloid suggests that lower GMV driven by non-amyloid pathology may play a central role in the neurobiology of LLD presenting as a psychiatric disorder. Trial registration: European Union Drug Regulating Authorities Clinical Trials identifier: EudraCT 2009-018064-95.
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