Evidence-Based Reviews

Resilience and mind-body interventions in late-life depression

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Self-reported resilience may also predict greater responsivity to antidepressant medication in patients with LLD.14 Older adults with LLD and greater self-reported baseline resilience were more likely to experience improvement or remission from depression with antidepressant treatment.14 This is congruent with conceptualizations of resilience as “the ability to adapt to and recover from stress.”14,15 Of the 4 identified resilience factors (grit, adaptive coping, accommodative coping, and spirituality), it appears that accommodative coping predicts LLD treatment response and remission.14 The unique ability to accommodate is associated with better mental health outcomes in the face of uncontrollable stress.14,16-18 Older adults appear to engage in more accommodative coping due to frequent uncontrollable stress and aging-related physiological changes (eg, sleep changes, chronic pain, declining cognition). This could make accommodative coping especially important in this population.14,19

The Figure, adapted from Weisenbach et al,9 exhibits factors that contribute to LLD, including cerebrovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and chronic inflammation, all of which can lead to a vulnerable aging brain that is at higher risk for depression, particularly within the context of stress. Clinical and neurocognitive factors associated with resilience can help buffer vulnerable brains from developing depression.

Vulnerability and resilience factors in late-life depression

Neurobiological biomarkers of resilience in LLD

Psychobiological consequences can add to existing risk factors and bidirectionally interact to increase health risks, including LLD.6 Stress is the primary factor in examining resilience, whether through protective measures or its adverse effects on biological and psychological systems. Resilience is often seen as adaptive maintenance of homeostasis in the face of stress.6 Stress and resilience were examined over multiple studies through the lens of several biomarkers, including gross anatomical features, stress response (endocrine, immune, and inflammatory), and cardiovascular indicators.

Gross anatomical indicators: Findings from neuroimaging

The neurobiology underlying psychological resilience involves brain networks associated with stress response, negative affect, and emotional control.19 Increased amygdala reactivity and amygdala frontal connectivity are often implicated in neurobiological models of resilience.20 Leaver et al20 correlated psychological resilience measures with amygdala function in 48 depressed vs nondepressed individuals using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Specifically, they targeted the basolateral, centromedial, and superficial nuclei groups of the amygdala while comparing the 2 groups based on resilience scores (CD-RISC), depressive symptom severity, and depression status.20 A significant correlation was identified between resilience and connectivity between the superficial group of amygdala nuclei and the ventral default mode network (VDMN).20 High levels of psychological resilience were associated with lower basal amygdala activity and decreased connectivity between amygdala nuclei and the VDMN.20 Additionally, lower depressive symptoms were associated with higher connectivity between the amygdalae and the dorsal frontal networks.20 These results suggest a complex relationship between amygdala activity, dorsal frontal regions, resilience, and LLD.20

Vlasova et al21 further addressed the multi­factorial character of psychological resilience. The associations between the 4 factors of resilience and the regional integrity of white matter in older adults with LLD were examined using diffusion-weighted MRI.21 Grit was found to be associated with greater white matter integrity in the genu of the corpus callosum and cingulum bundle in LLD.21 There was also a positive association between grit and fractional anisotropy (FA) in the callosal region connecting the prefrontal cortex and FA in the cingulum fibers.21 However, results regarding the FA in the cingulum fibers did not survive correction for multiple comparisons and should be considered with caution, pending further research.21

Continue to: Stress response biomarkers of resilience


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