Evidence-Based Reviews

Resilience and mind-body interventions in late-life depression

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Research has also begun to evaluate the neurobiological mechanisms by which meditative therapies enhance resilience in mental health disorders, and several promising mechanistic domains (neural, hormonal, immune, cellular, and cardiovascular) have been identified.39 The physical yoga discipline includes asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), and dhyana (meditation). With the inclusion of mindfulness training, yoga involves the practice of meditation as well as the dynamic combination of proprioceptive and interoceptive awareness, resulting in both attention and profound focus.40 Dedicated yoga practice allows an individual to develop skills to withdraw the senses (pratyahara), concentrate the mind (dharana), and establish unwavering awareness (dhyana).41 The physical and cognitive benefits associated with yoga and mindfulness may be due to mechanisms including pranayama and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system; meditative or contemplative practices; increased body perception; stronger functional connectivity within the basal ganglia; or neuroplastic effects of increased grey matter volume and amygdala with regional enlargement.41 The new learning aspect of yoga practice may contribute to enhancing or improving various aspects of cognition, although the mechanisms are yet to be clarified.

Continued research in this area will promote the integration of MBTs into mainstream clinical practice and help alleviate the increased chronic health burden of an aging population. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, public interest in improving resilience and mental health42 can be supported by MBTs that can improve coping with the stress of the pandemic and enhance critical organ function (eg, lungs, heart, brain).43,44 As a result of these limitations, many resources and health care services have used telehealth and virtual platforms to adapt to these challenges and continue offering MBTs.45

Enhancing resilience to improve clinical outcomes

Increasing our understanding of clinical, neurocognitive, and neurobiological markers of resilience in older adults with and without depression could inform the development of interventions that treat and prevent mood and cognitive disorders of aging. Furthermore, stress reduction, decreased inflammation, and improved emotional regulation may have direct neuroplastic effects on the brain, leading to greater resilience. Complementary use of MBTs combined with standard antidepressant treatment may allow for additional improvement in clinical outcomes of LLD, including resilience, quality of life, general health, and cognitive function. Additional research testing the efficacy of those interventions designed to improve resilience in older adults with mood and mental disorders is needed.

Bottom Line

Identifying the clinical, neurocognitive, and neurobiological biomarkers of resilience in late-life depression could aid in the development of targeted interventions that treat and prevent mood and cognitive disorders of aging. Mind-body interventions can help boost resilience and improve outcomes in geriatric patients with mood and cognitive disorders.

Related Resources

  • Lavretsky H. Resilience and Aging: Research and Practice. Johns Hopkins University Press; 2014.
  • Lavretsky H, Sajatovic M, Reynolds CF, eds. Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Mental Health and Aging. Oxford University Press; 2016.
  • Eyre HA, Berk M, Lavretsky H, et al, eds. Convergence Mental Health: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Innovation. Oxford University Press; 2021.
  • UCLA Jane & Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. Late-life Depression, Stress, and Wellness Research Program. https://www.semel.ucla.edu/latelife


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