White matter integrity in major depressive disorder: Implications of childhood trauma, 5-HTTLPR and BDNF polymorphisms

Erica L. Tatham, Rajamannar Ramasubbu, Ismael Gaxiola-Valdez, Filomeno Cortese, Darren Clark, Bradley Goodyear, Jane Foster, Geoffrey B. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This study examined the impact of childhood neglect, serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) polymorphisms on white matter (WM) integrity in major depressive disorder (MDD) using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Fifty-five medication-free MDD patients and 18 controls underwent diffusion tensor imaging scanning, genotyping and completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Tract based spatial statistics (TBSS) findings revealed reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) in the MDD group in the anterior internal capsule. 5-HTTLPR-S'L' heterozygotes in the MDD group exhibited reduced FA in the internal capsule relative to S'S' and reduced FA in corona radiata compared to L'L'. Probabilistic tractography revealed higher FA in the uncinate fasciculus (UF) for BDNF val/val genotype relative to met-carriers, particularly in individuals with high depression severity. High depression severity and experiences of childhood physical or emotional neglect predicted higher FA in the UF and superior longitudinal fasciculus. Reductions in FA were identified for subgroups of MDD patients who were 5-HTTLPR heterozygotes and BDNF-met carriers. An association between emotional/physical neglect and FA was observed in subjects with high depressive symptoms. Our findings suggest that WM connectivity within frontal and limbic regions are affected by depression and influenced by experiences of neglect and genetic risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
StatePublished - Jul 30 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HTTLPR
  • BDNF
  • Depression
  • DTI
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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