Depression, behavioral changes may be precursor to Alzheimer's

Washington: A new study published in the journal Neurology claims that depression and behavioral changes are likely to occur before memory decline in people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.


Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, said while it has known that many people with Alzheimer’s experience depression, irritability, apathy and appetite loss but did not recognized how early these symptoms appear.


Pinpointing the origins of these symptoms could be important to fully understanding Alzheimer’s effects on the brain and finding ways to counteract them.


Catherine M. Roe, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine & senior author of the study, said there has been conflicting evidence on the relationship between Alzheimer’s and depression. It’s still not known whether some of these symptoms (like irritability) were due to people realizing on some level that they were having problems with memory and thinking or were caused directly by Alzheimer’s effects on the brain, she added.


Roe and her colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine analyzed data on 2,416 people aged 50 and older. Researchers evaluated the study participants for up to seven years, including how they performed in extensive tests of mental function and psychological health.


All the participants were cognitively normal at the start, but, over the course of the study, around 1,218 of them developed dementia.


Researchers found that those who developed dementia during the study period were more likely to have had mood and behavioral changes first. For example, four years into the study, 30 per cent of those who later developed dementia showed signs of depression first. In comparison, only 15 per cent of those who did not develop dementia during the study showed signs of depression.


Similarly, those who would go on to develop dementia during the course of the study period, were more than 12 times as likely to have delusions than those who did not develop dementia.


Alzheimer’s researchers have been working to develop markers that they can use to diagnose disease before the onset of dementia. The hope is to begin treating the condition before patients develop dementia.




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