Can Better Stress Coping Limit Tau Deposition?


Stress coping abilities may have a direct impact on the early accumulation of tau pathology.

Eider M. Arenaza-Urquijo, PhD

Eider M. Arenaza-Urquijo, PhD

Results from a study that examined the parallels between stress coping and tau burden in cognitively unimpaired (CU) older adults revealed that a greater stress coping ability may limit the negative effects of stress on accumulating tau pathology.

The study included 225 CU participants (mean age 70.4+10.2 years; 48% female) enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. Each patient completed the Brief Resilience Scale (BRS), a 6-item assessment that looks at the ability to recover from stress, and underwent amyloid-positron emission tomography (PET) and tau-PET to assess amyloid status (A+ or A-) and tau deposition.

Investigators evaluated the associations between BRS and tau-PET and the interaction with amyloid status and sex using multiple regression and covariance models, including age, sex, education, anxiety, and depression. Investigators measured depressive and anxiety symptoms using the Beck Depression Inventory-II and Beck Anxiety Inventory. Tau burden was primarily measured in the entorhinal cortex (ERC), in addition to voxel-wise analysis.

Lower tau burden in the medial temporal lobe (including ERC), occipito-temporal and cuneal/precuneal cortices was associated with higher stress coping ability in both A+ and A- participants, though the association was weaker in A- CU participants.

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Greater tau burden in the medial temporal lobe was observed in A+ CU older adults with lower stress coping abilities.

In addition, investigators reported that stress-coping ability was not significantly associated with age (r = −0.09; P = 0.20), amyloid status (amyloid positivity) (P = 0.27), or sex (P = 0.99). Alternatly, a higher BRS score correlated with higher education (r = 0.24; P <.001), as well as lower scores in depression (r = 0.4; P <.001) and anxiety scales (r = -0.3; P <.001).

The authors concluded that the negative effects of stress on tau deposition may be limited with a quicker termination of stress response. In addition, the findings also indicate that lower stress coping ability may be an early sign of accumulating tau pathology.

The investigators noted that longitudinal studies are required to further understand the mechanisms linking stress and tau deposition, as “stress may play a role in the development or promotion of tau pathology, or alternatively, lower stress coping ability may represent an early manifestation of accumulating tau pathology.”


Arenaza-Urquijo EM, Przybelski SA, Machulda MM, et al. Better stress coping associated with lower tau in amyloid-positive cognitively unimpaired older adults. Neurology. 2020;00:1-9. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000008979.

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