In old age, lack of emotion and interest may signal your brain is shrinking

Older people who have apathy but not depression may have smaller brain volumes than those without apathy, according to a new study published in the April 16, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Apathy is a lack of interest or emotion.

"Just as signs of memory loss may signal brain changes related to brain disease, may indicate underlying changes," said Lenore J. Launer, PhD, with the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Apathy symptoms are common in without dementia. And the fact that participants in our study had apathy without depression should turn our attention to how apathy alone could indicate ."

Launer's team used brain volume as a measure of accelerated brain aging. Brain volume losses occur during normal aging, but in this study, larger amounts of loss could indicate brain diseases.

For the study, 4,354 people without dementia and with an average age of 76 underwent an MRI scan. They were also asked questions that measure apathy symptoms, which include lack of interest, lack of emotion, dropping activities and interests, preferring to stay at home and having a lack of energy.

The study found that people with two or more apathy symptoms had 1.4 percent smaller gray matter volume and 1.6 percent less white matter volume compared to those who had less than two symptoms of apathy. Excluding people with depression symptoms did not change the results.

Gray matter is where learning takes place and memories are stored in the brain. White matter acts as the communication cables that connect different parts of the .

"If these findings are confirmed, identifying people with apathy earlier may be one way to target an at-risk group," Launer said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can fish oil help preserve brain cells?

Jan 22, 2014

People with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health, according to a study published in the January ...

Apathy common in dementia patients with brain changes

Dec 02, 2009

Dementia patients with a certain type of changes in their brain's white matter are more likely to be apathetic than those who do not have these changes, reveals a patient study carried out by the Sahlgrenska Academy and Sahlgrenska ...

Recommended for you

Myelin vital for learning new practical skills

Oct 16, 2014

New evidence of myelin's essential role in learning and retaining new practical skills, such as playing a musical instrument, has been uncovered by UCL research. Myelin is a fatty substance that insulates ...

Reminiscing can help, not hinder, some mind-bending tasks

Oct 16, 2014

To solve a mental puzzle, the brain's executive control network for externally focused, goal-oriented thinking must activate, while the network for internally directed thinking like daydreaming must be turned down to avoid ...

Bio-X scientists develop decoy drug to aid ailing brain

Oct 16, 2014

A team of Stanford Bio-X scientists has restored the ability of adult mice to form new connections in the brain. If the finding works in people, it has the potential to help adults recover from stroke and ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Egleton
not rated yet Apr 17, 2014
I was going to become a motivational speaker, but I couldn't be bothered.