Evidence of cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities in patients with depressive syndromes

Dominique Endres*, Evgeniy Perlov, Rick Dersch, Annette Baumgartner, Tilman Hottenrott, Benjamin Berger, Oliver Stich, Ludger Tebartz Van Elst

*Corresponding author for this work
23 Citations (Scopus)


Background Depression is the most prevalent psychiatric disease. In addition to primary, idiopathic depression, there are multiple secondary organic forms. However, distinguishing the two can be difficult, information about cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) basic findings in patients with depressive syndromes is sparse. Therefore, we investigated CSF alterations in so far the largest sample of patients with depressive syndromes. We hypothesized that increased prevalence of CSF pleocytosis, blood-brain-barrier (BBB) dysfunction, and oligoclonal bands (OCBs) would be observed as possible markers of underlying immunological processes. Methods From January 2006 until October 2013, we performed CSF basic diagnostics in 125 patients with depressive syndromes. We also performed serum and CSF autoantibody measurements, cerebral magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). Results Four % of the patients displayed increased CSF white blood cell counts (WBC), 46.4% had increased protein concentrations, and 19.4% had pathological albumin quotients. OCBs in the CSF were detected in 6.5%. Overall, CSF basic diagnostics were abnormal in 56%. Including instrument-based diagnostics, we found alterations in 80.8% of patients. Suicidal tendencies correlated with an increased WBC count (r=0.276, p=0.002). Limitations In this open, uncontrolled study, we investigated mainly CSF samples of depressive patients with signs of organic features. Therefore, the study cohort is not representative of idiopathic depression. Conclusions The main findings of this study are the high rates of pathological (although mainly unspecific) CSF findings. We discuss the findings regarding possible immunological mechanisms and the vascular depression hypothesis. If these findings are associated with low-level inflammation of the central nervous system, new treatment alternatives could be considered. More and better controlled research is necessary.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Pages (from-to)178-184
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 01.07.2016

Research Areas and Centers

  • Health Sciences

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-09 Biological Psychiatry

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