Perceived stress is differentially related to hippocampal subfield volumes among older adults

Molly E. Zimmerman, Ali Ezzati, Mindy J. Katz, Michael L. Lipton, Adam M. Brickman, Martin J. Sliwinski, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Introduction Chronic exposure to stress has been shown to impact a wide range of health-related outcomes in older adults. Despite extensive animal literature revealing deleterious effects of biological markers of stress on the dentate gyrus subfield of the hippocampus, links between hippocampal subfields and psychological stress have not been studied in humans. This study examined the relationship between perceived stress and hippocampal subfield volumes among racially/ethnically diverse older adults. Methods and Materials Between July 2011 and March 2014, 116 nondemented participants were consecutively drawn from the Einstein Aging Study, an ongoing community-based sample of individuals over the age of 70 residing in Bronx, New York. All participants completed the Perceived Stress Scale, Geriatric Depression Scale, and underwent 3.0 T MRI. FreeSurfer was used to derive total hippocampal volume, hippocampal subfield volumes (CA1, CA2/CA3, CA4/ Dentate Gyrus (CA4/DG), and subiculum), entorhinal cortex volume, whole brain volume, and total intracranial volume. Results Linear regression analyses revealed that higher levels of perceived stress were associated with smaller total hippocampal volume (β = -0.20, t = -2.40, p = 0.02), smaller CA2/CA3 volumes (β = -0.18, t = -2.24, p = 0.03) and smaller CA4/DG volumes (β = -0.19, t = -2.28, p = 0.03) after controlling for total intracranial volume, age, gender, and race. These findings remained unchanged after removal of individuals with clinically significant symptoms of depression. Discussion Our findings provide evidence of a relationship between a direct indicator of psychological stress and specific hippocampal subfield volumes in elderly individuals. These results highlight the importance of clinical screening for chronic stress in otherwise healthy older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0154530
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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