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Stress Associated with More Rapid Brain Aging

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry; ePub 2016 Dec 28; Johnson, et al

A recent study adds to the growing literature associating exposure to stressful events in later life with more rapid pathological brain aging, specifically white matter hyperintensity volumes. Researchers evaluated a sample that included 130 depressed and 110 never-depressed older adults aged ≥60 years enrolled in a longitudinal study at an academic medical center. Participants completed clinical assessments, assessment of stressful event exposure and perceived stress, and magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and after 2 years. They found:

  • There were no statistically significant relationships observed between cross-sectional baseline stress measures and either baseline hyperintensity volume or 2-year change in hyperintensity volume.
  • However, after controlling for demographic variables and baseline measures, change in stressor exposure was associated with change in hyperintensity volumes.
  • In this analysis, increased stressor exposure was associated with greater increases in white matter hyperintensity volume, while reductions in stressor exposure were associated with less increase in hyperintensity volume.

Citation:

Johnson AD, McQuoid DR, Steffens DC, Payne ME, Beyer JL, Taylor WD. Effects of stressful life events on cerebral white matter hyperintensity progression. [Published online ahead of print December 28, 2016]. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi:10.1002/gps.4644.