Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) has different clinical presentations and is associated with neurobiological alterations. Hopelessness, anhedonia, and dissociation represent some of the most pervasive psychopathological symptoms that often lead to suicidal thoughts, attempts, and actions. To further research on the concept of depression endophenotypes, this study aimed to assess the possible relationships between hopelessness and other clinical and biological correlates (i.e., striatal dopaminergic dysfunction) in depressed patients.
Methods: We recruited 51 subjects with MDD. All subjects underwent 123I-FP-CIT SPECT to assess striatal dopamine transporter (DAT) availability and a psychometric evaluation using the psychometric scale to assess depressive, anxious, dissociative, and hopelessness symptoms aside from suicidal ideation. Result: An inverse correlation between the hopelessness score and dopamine transporter availability in all basal ganglia was bilaterally found. (Right Putamen, r = -0.445, p < 0.01; Left Putamen, r = -0.454, p < 0.01; Right Caudate, r = -0.398, p < 0.01; Left Caudate, r = -0.467, p < 0.01) Moreover, a positive correlation was also found between hopelessness and dissociative symptoms.
Conclusions: These results provide important evidence on the neurobiological and clinical correlates of different psychopathological symptoms of depression with potential implications in terms of devising more effective treatment programs.