Study finds apathy and depression predict progression from mild cognitive impairment

July 12, 2010

A new Mayo Clinic study found that apathy and depression significantly predict an individual's progression from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a disorder of the brain that affects nerve cells involved in thinking abilities, to dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia. The study was presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Honolulu on July 11, 2010.

"An important area of study is the identification of biomarkers and clinical predictors for the progression from normal cognition to mild cognitive impairment and mild cognitive impairment to ," says Yonas E. Geda, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neuropsychiatrist and the study's lead investigator. "We knew from previous smaller studies that neuropsychiatric symptoms like depression, apathy and agitation seem to predict progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, so we set out to look at this hypothesis in a population-based setting with a larger sample size."

Depression and apathy are neuropsychiatric symptoms that are often difficult to distinguish, according to Dr. Geda. Depression causes changes in mood, thinking, physical well-being and behavior, while apathy is loss of motivation without associated feelings of being depressed or blue.

As part of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, Dr. Geda and a team of Mayo Clinic researchers identified 358 individuals with mild cognitive impairment and used a questionnaire to collect data on depression and apathy. Then, they prospectively followed individuals to the outcome of dementia (a median of 2.8 years). Among 87 individuals with depression, 30 (34.5 percent) developed dementia. Of the 271 individuals without depression, 59 (21.8 percent) developed dementia. Among 60 individuals with apathy, 22 (36.7 percent) developed dementia. Of the 298 individuals without apathy, 67 (22.5 percent) developed dementia.

After adjusting for age, gender and education, the researchers found that the individuals with mild cognitive impairment and depression had a 66 percent increased risk of developing dementia than those individuals with mild cognitive impairment without depression. Likewise, the individuals with mild cognitive impairment and apathy had a 99 percent increased risk of developing dementia than those individuals with mild impairment without apathy.

"These findings highlight the importance of thoroughly evaluating newly-diagnosed patients with for neuropsychiatric symptoms. The next step is to conduct a study to find out if treatment of depression or apathy in MCI may delay the onset of dementia," says Dr. Geda. "This delay could have a huge impact on the quality of life for individual patients and their families, not to mention the broad public health implications of delaying the societal and economic burden of dementia. In fact, a previous biostatistics study from our colleagues at Johns Hopkins indicated that delaying dementia by a mere one year could reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease by nearly 800,000 million fewer cases in 2050."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers find common psychological traits in group of Italians aged 90 to 101

December 12, 2017
In remote Italian villages nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains lives a group of several hundred citizens over the age of 90. Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San ...

Your mood depends on the food you eat, and what you should eat changes as you get older

December 11, 2017
Diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus older adults, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

New therapy can help schizophrenia sufferers re-engage socially

December 11, 2017
A new therapy aimed at helping young people suffering from schizophrenia to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, according to a new University of Sussex-led study.

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

Certain books can increase infant learning during shared reading, study shows

December 11, 2017
Parents and pediatricians know that reading to infants is a good thing, but new research shows reading books that clearly name and label people and objects is even better.

Infant brain responses predict reading speed in secondary school

December 11, 2017
A study conducted at the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research (CIBR) has found that the brain responses of infants with an inherited ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.