Progression of Cerebral White Matter Lesions Is Not Associated With Development of Depressive Symptoms in Elderly Subjects at Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: The PROSPER Study

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006 Apr;21(4):375-81. doi: 10.1002/gps.1477.


Background: Cerebral white matter hyperintensities on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans have been associated with vascular disease and late-life depression, both in the general population and in psychiatric patients. Therefore, a cerebrovascular etiology for late-onset depression has been hypothesized. However, longitudinal studies on the causal role of white matter hyperintensities in the development of depressive symptoms in elderly adults are lacking.

Objective: To investigate the relation between white matter hyperintensities and depressive symptoms in elderly subjects at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Methods: In the Dutch sample of the PROSPER (PROspective Study of Pravastatine in the Elderly at Risk of cardiovascular disease) cohort, 527 non-demented elderly, all aged 70 years or older, received a cranial MRI scan and the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale, at baseline and 33 months (SD 1.6) later.

Results: Presence of white matter hyperintensities at baseline was not related to baseline depressive symptoms nor to the development of depressive symptoms during follow-up. Moreover, no association was found between progression of white matter lesion volume and progression of depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: This longitudinal study does not confirm the involvement of cerebrovascular disease expressed as MRI white matter hyperintensities in the development of depressive symptoms in elderly subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology*
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Prospective Studies