Depression with cognitive impairment, so called depressive pseudodementia, is commonly mistaken for a neurodegenerative dementia. Using positron emission tomography (PET) derived measures of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) a cohort of 33 patients with major depression was studied. Ten patients displayed significant and reversible cognitive impairment. The patterns of rCBF of these patients were compared with a cohort of equally depressed non-cognitively impaired depressed patients. In the depressed cognitively impaired patients a profile of rCBF abnormalities was identified consisting of decreases in the left anterior medial prefrontal cortex and increases in the cerebellar vermis. These changes were additional to those seen in depression alone and are distinct from those described in neurodegenerative dementia. The cognitive impairment seen in a proportion of depressed patients would seem to be associated with dysfunction of neural systems distinct from those implicated in depression alone or the neurodegenerative dementias.
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