Regional cerebral blood flow was investigated in 14 patients with major depression diagnosed according to the DSM-III-R criteria (six patients with single and eight patients with recurrent episodes) and in ten healthy volunteers. The mean ages of the patients and the controls were 33.5 +/- 2.7 and 31.6 +/- 2.6 years, respectively. The severity of the depression was assessed using the 17-item Hamilton Depression Scale (mean: 23.2 +/- 1.5). None of the patients was under medication. After administration of 500 MBq technetium-99m hexamethylpropylene amine oxime, a single photon emission tomography study was performed and then transaxial, sagittal and coronal slices were obtained. For the semiquantitative analysis of the data, the ratios of the mean counts/pixel to the whole slice were calculated for 24 regions on three consecutive transaxial slices in the orbitomeatal plane. Additionally, left/right and frontal/occipital ratios were calculated. Both sides of the temporal region had a significantly decreased cerebral blood flow (CBF) when compared to the controls. The left/right ratio of the prefrontal region was also significantly lower in the patients than in the controls. The Hamilton score had a negative correlation with blood flow in the anterofrontal and left prefrontal regions. According to our results, regional CBF seems to be decreased in the left prefrontal and in both temporal regions in major depression. The severity of depression is correlated with the reduction in CBF in the regions of the anterofrontal and left prefrontal cortex.