Neuroanatomical predictors of L-DOPA response in older adults with psychomotor slowing and depression: A pilot study

Rutherford, Bret R.; Choi, Jongwoo; Slifstein, Mark; O'Boyle, Kaleigh; Abi-Dargham, Anissa; Brown, Patrick J.; Wall, Melanie M.; Vanegas-Arroyave, Nora; Sakhardande, Jayant D.; Stern, Yaakov; Roose, Steven P.

Background: Declining function in dopamine circuits is implicated in normal aging and late-life depression (LLD). Dopamine augmentation recently has shown therapeutic promise, but predictors of response are unknown.

Methods: Depressed elders with slowed gait underwent baseline magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and [11C]raclopride positron emission tomography (PET). Subjects then received open treatment with carbidopa/levodopa (L-DOPA) for three weeks. Linear regressions examined relationships between baseline MRI measures, [11C]raclopride binding, and behavioral outcomes.

Results: Among N = 16 participants aged 72.5 ± 6.8 years, higher left superior temporal gyrus volume was associated with higher processing speed at baseline, while cortical thinning in a processing speed network was associated with greater improvement following L-DOPA. Greater volume and cortical thickness in brain regions associated with mobility were associated with higher baseline gait speed. Higher baseline white matter hyperintensity volume predicted less post-L-DOPA improvement on dual task gait speed and IDS-SR scores. Higher [11C]raclopride binding in the associative striatum was associated with cortical thickness in some, but not all, processing speed brain regions, while higher binding in sensorimotor striatum was significantly associated with left caudate volume.

Limitations: Limiting the conclusions drawn from this pilot study are the small sample size and open administration of L-DOPA.

Conclusions: Greater baseline brain volumes and cortical thickness in regions supporting cognition and gait were associated with higher behavioral performance, while lower structural integrity was associated with increased responsivity to L-DOPA. If substantiated in larger studies, these findings could facilitate the targeting of dopaminergic treatments to those LLD patients most likely to respond.


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Journal of Affective Disorders

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May 4, 2021