Anxiety may be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease: Study finds a link between anxiety and raised amyloid beta levels


A new study that was published on Friday, January 12 in the American Journal of Psychiatry hints at an association between elevated amyloid beta levels and the heightening of anxiety symptoms, leading researchers to hypothesize that such symptoms may be indicative of the early manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.

  • The researchers gathered data from a study of older adult volunteers, called the Harvard Brain Aging Study, which sought to understand the neurobiological and clinical changes in early Alzheimer’s disease.
  • People who underwent observation for the study comprised of 270 community-dwelling, cognitively normal men and women between 62 and 90 years old with no existing psychiatric disorders.
  • The participants engaged in baseline imaging scans that are usually used in studies of Alzheimer’s disease, and annual assessments in the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), a test that is used to measure depression in older people.
  • The research team calculated total GDS scores as well as scores for three cluster symptoms of depression: apathy-anhedonia, anxiety, and dysphoria.
  • The scores were noted and monitored over a span of five years.
  • The team found that higher brain amyloid beta levels were linked to an increase in anxiety symptoms over time in cognitively normal older adults.
  • This finding suggest that acute anxious-depressive symptoms may be an early precursor of pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers, however, note that further studies are needed to solidify whether these escalating depressive symptoms really cause Alzheimer’s disease in the long run.

Journal reference

Nancy J. Donovan, Joseph J. Locascio, Gad A. Marshall, Jennifer Gatchel, Bernard J. Hanseeuw, Dorene M. Rentz, Keith A. Johnson, Reisa A. Sperling. LONGITUDINAL ASSOCIATION OF AMYLOID BETA AND ANXIOUS-DEPRESSIVE SYMTOMS IN COGNITIVELY NORMAL OLDER ADULTS. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2017. 1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17040442



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