Evaluation and treatment of depression may reverse memory and cognitive difficulties

March 27, 2018, Boston University School of Medicine

Individuals with worse depression and mood symptoms are more likely to develop Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and to progress from MCI to dementia. Evaluation and treatment of symptoms of depression may improve or maintain cognitive functioning in some older patients diagnosed with MCI.

MCI is a state in between normal cognition and Alzheimer's disease (AD) , in which the individual has a subjective complaint of memory and other difficulties and performance on formal neuropsychological testing is abnormal for age, but these problems do not interfere with routine independent functioning. The majority of people with MCI have progressive memory and cognitive impairment, and eventually are unable to function independently with daily tasks, resulting in a diagnosis of dementia. However, some individuals with MCI do not get progressively worse and some people improve, reverting back from MCI to normal cognition. This study demonstrated that measuring such as depression, anxiety, agitation and irritability, helps to predict who will progress from normal cognition to MCI, and then who will either progress from MCI to AD dementia or revert back to normal cognition.

In this study, published online in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) analyzed data from 6,763 individuals participating in longitudinal research studies at 34 Alzheimer's Disease Centers across the U.S that are currently or were previously funded by the National Institute on Aging. The data from all centers are entered into a database at the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center. The participants, whose average age was 72, received annual neurologic examinations and evaluations of their memory and cognitive functioning as well as their neuropsychiatric symptoms. Study partners (e.g., significant others) also rated participants' neuropsychiatric symptoms and level of functioning. Participants were diagnosed at each evaluation as either cognitively normal, MCI, or AD Dementia by teams of doctors. All participants in this study were cognitively normal at the time of their first examination and were then followed from two to 12 years, with an average of five years.

Results of the study showed that individuals with normal cognition were more likely to progress to MCI if they had more depression, anxiety and other mood symptoms. Similarly, people who had progressed to MCI were more likely to progress even further to AD dementia if they had more of these neuropsychiatric symptoms. An important finding was that approximately one third of the participants who had progressed to MCI reverted back to normal cognition, and that the participants who reverted back had significantly lower neuropsychiatric symptoms and a greater reduction in depression symptoms.

In particular, the researchers noted that improvements in depression and led to a greater likelihood of cognitive improvement. "The implication is that successfully identifying and providing effective treatment for these neuropsychiatric symptoms, including , may potentially improve or maintain in many older adults," explained corresponding author Robert Stern, PhD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery and anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM, and Clinical Core Director of the BU Alzheimer's Disease Center. "There are many possible explanations for these findings and further research is needed to address this important issue," Stern cautioned.

Explore further: Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

Related Stories

Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

January 12, 2018
A new study suggests an association between elevated amyloid beta levels and the worsening of anxiety symptoms. The findings support the hypothesis that neuropsychiatric symptoms could represent the early manifestation of ...

Study finds Alzheimer's manifests differently in Hispanics

October 11, 2016
Certain symptoms associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease, including agitation and depression, affect Hispanics more frequently and severely than other ethnicities. The findings, published in the Journal of ...

Memory scores limited as Alzheimer's screening tool

December 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Low memory scores are an early marker of amyloid positivity, but have limited value as a screening measure for early Alzheimer's disease among persons without dementia, according to a study published online ...

How is depression related to dementia?

July 30, 2014
A new study by neuropsychiatric researchers at Rush University Medical Center gives insight into the relationship between depression and dementia. The study is published in the July 30, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the ...

New guideline: Try exercise to improve memory, thinking

December 27, 2017
For patients with mild cognitive impairment, don't be surprised if your health care provider prescribes exercise rather than medication. A new guideline for medical practitioners says they should recommend twice-weekly exercise ...

Recommended for you

Study clarifies ApoE4's role in dementia

September 20, 2018
ApoE4, a protein linked to both Alzheimer's disease and a form of dementia caused by damage of blood vessels in the brain, increases the risk of cognitive impairment by reducing the number and responsiveness of blood vessels ...

Machine learning IDs markers to help predict Alzheimer's

September 19, 2018
Nearly 50 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. These irreversible brain disorders slowly cause memory loss and destroy thinking skills, eventually to such an extent that self-care ...

Discovery could explain failed clinical trials for Alzheimer's, and provide a solution

September 19, 2018
Researchers at King's College London have discovered a vicious feedback loop underlying brain degeneration in Alzheimer's disease which may explain why so many drug trials have failed. The study also identifies a clinically ...

Air pollution may be linked to heightened dementia risk

September 18, 2018
Air pollution may be linked to a heightened risk of developing dementia, finds a London-based observational study, published in the online journal BMJ Open. The associations found couldn't be explained by factors known to ...

A new approach for finding Alzheimer's treatments

September 11, 2018
Considering what little progress has been made finding drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease, Maikel Rheinstädter decided to come at the problem from a totally different angle—perhaps the solution lay not with the peptide ...

Study prevents cognitive decline in older blacks with memory loss

September 10, 2018
With nearly twice the rate of dementia as whites, blacks are at a higher risk for developing diseases like Alzheimer's, but there has been little research on how to reduce this racial health disparity. A new study in black ...

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.