A Comprehensive Overview of the Role of Visual Cortex Malfunction in Depressive Disorders: Opportunities and Challenges

 Fangfang Wu1 · Qingbo Lu2 · Yan Kong3 · Zhijun Zhang2,4
1 Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine & Holistic Integrative Medicine, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing 210023, China
2 Department of Neurology, Affiliated Zhongda Hospital, School of Medicine, Institute of Neuropsychiatry, Key Laboratory of Developmental Genes and Human Disease,
Southeast University, Nanjing 210009, China
3 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine, Southeast University, Nanjing 210009, China
4 Department of Mental Health and Public Health, Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen 518055, China

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a highly heterogeneous mental disorder, and its complex etiology and unclear mechanism are great obstacles to the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Studies have shown that abnormal functions of the visual cortex have been reported in MDD patients, and the actions of several antidepressants coincide with improvements in the structure and synaptic functions of the visual cortex. In this review, we critically evaluate current evidence showing the involvement of the malfunctioning visual cortex in the pathophysiology and therapeutic process of depression. In addition, we discuss the molecular mechanisms of visual cortex dysfunction that may underlie the pathogenesis of MDD. Although the precise roles of visual cortex abnormalities in MDD remain uncertain, this undervalued brain region may become a novel area for the treatment of depressed patients.

Major depressive disorder; Visual cortex; Occipital lobe; Visual network; Antidepressant treatment