BACKGROUND The meaning of post-stroke depression is controversial.
AIMS To investigate the hypothesis that major post-stroke depression (PSD) may be due to organic factors (left frontal lesions) immediately after the stroke, but to psychosocial factors in later stages.
METHOD We studied 153 consecutive stroke patients, categorised on the basis of time elapsed since stroke, lesion location and presence/absence of major PSD. Fifty-eight were examined in the first two months following the stroke, 52 between two and four months, and 43 after four months or more. The symptom profiles and anatomical-clinical correlates of major PSD were studied in each subgroup. A group of 30 patients affected by a functional form of major depression were also investigated.
RESULTS The symptom profiles and anatomical-clinical correlates of major PSD were not different in the acute and more chronic stages. Clear symptom differences were, however, observed between major PSD and endogenous major depression. Motivated (reactive) symptoms prevailed in the former, whereas unmotivated symptoms prevailed in the latter.
CONCLUSIONS Our data are more consistent with a psychological than with a neurological model of post-stroke depression.