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Self-reported activity restriction is an established correlate of depression in dementia caregivers (dCGs). It is plausible that the daily distribution of objectively measured activity is also altered in dCGs with depression symptoms; if so, such activity characteristics could provide a passively measurable marker of depression or specific times to target preventive interventions. We therefore investigated how levels of activity throughout the day differed in dCGs with and without depression symptoms, then tested whether any such differences predicted changes in symptoms 6 months later.
Design, setting, participants, and measurements:
We examined 56 dCGs (mean age = 71, standard deviation (SD) = 6.7; 68% female) and used clustering to identify subgroups which had distinct depression symptom levels, leveraging baseline Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale–Revised Edition and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) measures, as well as a PHQ-9 score from 6 months later. Using wrist activity (mean recording length = 12.9 days, minimum = 6 days), we calculated average hourly activity levels and then assessed when activity levels relate to depression symptoms and changes in symptoms 6 months later.
Clustering identified subgroups characterized by: (1) no/minimal symptoms (36%) and (2) depression symptoms (64%). After multiple comparison correction, the group of dCGs with depression symptoms was less active from 8 to 10 AM (Cohen’s d ≤ −0.9). These morning activity levels predicted the degree of symptom change on the PHQ-9 6 months later (per SD unit β = −0.8, 95% confidence interval: −1.6, −0.1, p = 0.03) independent of self-reported activity restriction and other key factors.
These novel findings suggest that morning activity may protect dCGs from depression symptoms. Future studies should test whether helping dCGs get active in the morning influences the other features of depression in this population (i.e. insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and perceived activity restriction).
Alongside impulsive suicide attempts, clinicians encounter highly premeditated suicidal acts, particularly in older adults. We have previously found that in contrast to the more impulsive suicide attempters’ inability to delay gratification, serious and highly planned suicide attempts were associated with greater willingness to wait for larger rewards. This study examined neural underpinnings of intertemporal preference in suicide attempters. We expected that impulsivity and suicide attempts, particularly poorly planned ones, would predict altered paralimbic subjective value representations. We also examined lateral prefrontal and paralimbic correlates of premeditation in suicidal behavior.
A total of 48 participants aged 46–90 years underwent extensive clinical and cognitive characterization and completed the delay discounting task in the scanner: 26 individuals with major depression (13 with and 13 without history of suicide attempts) and 22 healthy controls.
More impulsive individuals displayed greater activation in the precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) to value difference favoring the delayed option. Suicide attempts, particularly better-planned ones, were associated with deactivation of the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) in response to value difference favoring the immediate option. Findings were robust to medication exposure, depression severity and possible brain damage from suicide attempts, among other confounders. Finally, in suicide attempters longer reward delays were associated with diminished parahippocampal responses.
Impulsivity was associated with an altered paralimbic (precuneus/PCC) encoding of value difference during intertemporal choice. By contrast, better-planned suicidal acts were associated with altered lPFC representations of value difference. The study provides preliminary evidence of impaired decision processes in both impulsive and premeditated suicidal behavior.
Altered corticostriatothalamic encoding of reinforcement is a core feature of depression. Here we examine reinforcement learning in late-life depression in the theoretical framework of the vascular depression hypothesis. This hypothesis attributes the co-occurrence of late-life depression and poor executive control to prefrontal/cingulate disconnection by vascular lesions.
Our fMRI study compared 31 patients aged ⩾60 years with major depression to 16 controls. Using a computational model, we estimated neural and behavioral responses to reinforcement in an uncertain, changing environment (probabilistic reversal learning).
Poor executive control and depression each explained distinct variance in corticostriatothalamic response to unexpected rewards. Depression, but not poor executive control, predicted disrupted functional connectivity between the striatum and prefrontal cortex. White-matter hyperintensities predicted diminished corticostriatothalamic responses to reinforcement, but did not mediate effects of depression or executive control. In two independent samples, poor executive control predicted a failure to persist with rewarded actions, an effect distinct from depressive oversensitivity to punishment. The findings were unchanged in a subsample of participants with vascular disease. Results were robust to effects of confounders including psychiatric comorbidities, physical illness, depressive severity, and psychotropic exposure.
Contrary to the predictions of the vascular depression hypothesis, altered encoding of rewards in late-life depression is dissociable from impaired contingency learning associated with poor executive control. Functional connectivity and behavioral analyses point to a disruption of ascending mesostriatocortical reward signals in late-life depression and a failure of cortical contingency encoding in elderly with poor executive control.
Differentiating bipolar from recurrent unipolar depression is a major clinical challenge. In 18 healthy females and 36 females in a depressive episode – 18 with bipolar disorder type I, 18 with recurrent unipolar depression – we applied pattern recognition analysis using subdivisions of anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) blood flow at rest, measured with arterial spin labelling. Subgenual ACC blood flow classified unipolar v. bipolar depression with 81% accuracy (83% sensitivity, 78% specificity).
Converging evidence implicates basal ganglia alterations in impulsivity and suicidal behavior. For example, D2/D3 agonists and subthalamic nucleus stimulation in Parkinson's disease (PD) trigger impulse control disorders and possibly suicidal behavior. Furthermore, suicidal behavior has been associated with structural basal ganglia abnormalities. Finally, low-lethality, unplanned suicide attempts are associated with increased discounting of delayed rewards, a behavior dependent upon the striatum. Thus, we tested whether, in late-life depression, changes in the basal ganglia were associated with suicide attempts and with increased delay discounting.
Fifty-two persons aged ⩾60 years underwent extensive clinical and cognitive characterization: 33 with major depression [13 suicide attempters (SA), 20 non-suicidal depressed elderly] and 19 non-depressed controls. Participants had high-resolution T1-weighted magnetization prepared rapid acquisition gradient–echo (MPRAGE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Basal ganglia gray matter voxel counts were estimated using atlas-based segmentation, with a highly deformable automated algorithm. Discounting of delayed rewards was assessed using the Monetary Choice Questionnaire (MCQ) and delay aversion with the Cambridge Gamble Task (CGT).
SA had lower putamen but not caudate or pallidum gray matter voxel counts, compared to the control groups. This difference persisted after accounting for substance use disorders and possible brain injury from suicide attempts. SA with lower putamen gray matter voxel counts displayed higher delay discounting but not delay aversion. Secondary analyses revealed that SA had lower voxel counts in associative and ventral but not sensorimotor striatum.
Our findings, although limited by small sample size and the case–control design, suggest that striatal lesions could contribute to suicidal behavior by increasing impulsivity.
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