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Magnetic Resonance Imaging Predictors of Treatment Response in Late-Life Depression

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Full Article: MRI Predictors of Treatment Response in Late-Life Depression

Aizenstein HJ1, Khalaf A, Walker SE, Andreescu C.


In older adults, depression not only results in more years lived with disability than any other disease but it also carries additional risks of suicide, medical comorbidities, and family caregiving burden. Because it can take many months to identify an effective treatment regimen, it is of utmost importance to shorten the window of time and identify early on what medications and dosages will work effectively for individuals having depression. Late-life depression (LLD) has been associated with greater burden of age-related changes (eg, atrophy, white matter ischemic changes, and functional connectivity). Depression in midlife has been shown to alter affective reactivity and regulation, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in LLD have replicated the same abnormalities. Effective treatment can normalize these alterations. This article provides a review of the current literature using structural and functional neuroimaging to identify MRI predictors of treatment response in LLD. The majority of the literature on structural MRI has focused on the vascular depression hypothesis, and studies support the view that loss of brain volume and white matter integrity was associated with poorer treatment outcomes. Studies using fMRI have reported that lower task-based activity in the prefrontal cortex and limbic regions was associated with poorer outcome. These imaging markers may be integrated into clinical decision making to attain better treatment outcomes in the future.

Published: J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2014 Mar;27(1):24-32.