10-Year trajectories of depressive symptoms and subsequent brain health in middle-aged adults

Isabel K Schuurmans, Sander Lamballais, Runyu Zou, Ryan L Muetzel, Manon H J Hillegers, Charlotte A M Cecil, Annemarie I Luik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Depressive symptoms differ in severity and stability over time. Trajectories depicting these changes, particularly those with high late-life depressive symptoms, have been associated with poor brain health at old age. To better understand these associations across the lifespan, we examined depressive symptoms trajectories in relation to brain health in middle age. We included 1676 participants from the ORACLE Study, all were expecting a child at baseline (mean age 32.8, 66.6% women). Depressive symptoms were assessed at baseline, 3 years and 10 years after baseline. Brain health (global brain volume, subcortical structures volume, white matter lesions, cerebral microbleeds, cortical thickness, cortical surface area) was assessed 15 years after baseline. Using k-means clustering, four depressive symptoms trajectories were identified: low, low increasing, decreasing, and high increasing symptoms. The high increasing trajectory was associated with smaller brain volume compared to low symptoms, not surviving multiple testing correction. The low increasing trajectory was associated with more cortical thickness in a small region encompassing the right lateral occipital cortex compared to low symptoms. These findings show that longitudinal depressive symptoms trajectories are only minimally associated with brain health in middle age, suggesting that associations may only emerge later in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-133
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Early online date21 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain structure
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Depression
  • MRI
  • Prospective cohort


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