A new Mayo Clinic study found that apathy and depression significantly predict an individual’s progression from mild cognitive impairment, a disorder of the brain that affects nerve cells involved in thinking abilities, to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia.
As part of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, a team of Mayo Clinic researchers identified 358 individuals with mild cognitive impairment and used a questionnaire to collect data on depression and apathy. They then prospectively followed the individuals to the outcome of dementia (an average of 2.6 years). Among 87 individuals with depression, 30 (34.5%) developed dementia, while of the 271 individuals without depression, 59 (21.8%) developed dementia. Among 60 individuals with apathy, 22 (36.7%) developed dementia, while of the 298 individuals without apathy, 67 (22.5%) developed dementia.
After adjusting for age, sex 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 cognitive impairment without apathy.
“These findings highlight the importance of thoroughly evaluating newly-diagnosed patients with mild cognitive impairment for neuropsychiatric symptoms. If we can treat individuals for their depression or apathy, we may be able to delay the onset of dementia,” says Yonas Endale Geda, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neuropsychiatrist and the study’s lead investigator. “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 fewer cases in 2050.”
The study will be presented at the 2010 International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Honolulu on Sunday, July 11.
Below is a link to a video interview with Dr. Geda.