Functional neuroimaging studies on patients with depression have found abnormal activity in the left prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex compared with healthy controls. Other studies have shown that these regions become active in healthy subjects during verbal fluency tasks, while patients with depression show impaired performance on such tasks. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate changes in cerebral blood oxygenation associated with a verbal fluency task in depressed patients and healthy volunteers. In contrast to 10 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects who activated the left prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex during word generation, 10 depressed subjects showed attenuated activation in the left prefrontal cortex and did not show significant activation in the anterior cingulate cortex. These findings suggest that impaired performance during verbal fluency task in depressed patients is associated with abnormal neural responses within these regions.
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