Oxidative stress and depressive symptoms in older adults: A magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

Shantel L. Duffy*, Jim Lagopoulos, Nicole Cockayne, Daniel F. Hermens, Ian B. Hickie, Sharon L. Naismith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Major depression is common in older adults and associated with greater health care utilisation and increased risk of poor health outcomes. Oxidative stress may be implicated in the pathophysiology of depression and can be measured via the neurometabolite glutathione using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). This study aimed to examine the relationship between glutathione concentration and depressive symptom severity in older adults 'at-risk' of depression. In total, fifty-eight older adults considered 'at-risk' of depression (DEP) and 12 controls underwent 1H-MRS, medical and neuropsychological assessments. Glutathione was measured in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and calculated as a ratio to creatine. Depressive and anxiety symptoms were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Compared to controls, DEP patients had increased glutathione/creatine ratios in the ACC (t=2.7, p=0.012). In turn, these increased ratios were associated with greater depressive symptoms (r=0.28, p=0.038), and poorer performance on a verbal learning task (r=-0.28, p=0.040). In conclusion, depressive symptoms in older people are associated with increased glutathione in the ACC. Oxidative stress may be pathophysiologically linked to illness development and may represent an early compensatory response. Further research examining the utility of glutathione as a marker for depressive symptoms and cognitive decline is now required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-35
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Depression
  • Glutathione
  • Oxidative stress
  • Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy


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