Resilience and amygdala function in older healthy and depressed adults

Amber M. Leaver*, Hongyu Yang, Prabha Siddarth, Roza M. Vlasova, Beatrix Krause, Natalie St. Cyr, Katherine L. Narr, Helen Lavretsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies suggest that low emotional resilience may correspond with increased or over-active amygdala function. Complementary studies suggest that emotional resilience increases with age; older adults tend to have decreased attentional bias to negative stimuli compared to younger adults. Amygdala nuclei and related brain circuits have been linked to negative affect, and depressed patients have been demonstrated to have abnormal amygdala function. Methods: In the current study, we correlated psychological resilience measures with amygdala function measured with resting-state arterial spin-labelled (ASL) and blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in older adults with and without depression. Specifically, we targeted the basolateral, centromedial, and superficial nuclei groups of the amygdala, which have different functions and brain connections. Results: High levels of psychological resilience correlated with lower basal levels of amygdala activity measured with ASL fMRI. High resilience also correlated with decreased connectivity between amygdala nuclei and the ventral default-mode network independent of depression status. Instead, lower depression symptoms were associated with higher connectivity between the amygdalae and dorsal frontal networks. Limitations: Future multi-site studies with larger sample size and improved neuroimaging technologies are needed. Longitudinal studies that target resilience to naturalistic stressors will also be a powerful contribution to the field. Conclusions: Our results suggest that resilience in older adults is more closely related to function in ventral amygdala networks, while late-life depression is related to reduced connectivity between the amygdala and dorsal frontal regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Aging
  • Amygdala
  • Late-life depression
  • Resilience
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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