A new look at elder depression

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A group of researchers is taking a closer look at severe depression in older adults. It is pervasive but little has been done to understand its origins or how it impacts health in other ways.

UCLA researchers used a unique brain scan to look at levels of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in older adults with major depressive disorder (MDD). Previous researchers has bound that plaque and tangles are signs of Alzheimer’s disease and many states of dementia are associated with varying degrees of depression and anxiety.

They developed a chemical marker, FDDNP, that adheres to both plaque and tangle deposits giving researchers a clear look at where they are collecting and when. A positron emission tomography (PET) brain scan reveals the build up.

By comparing FDDNP scans in older adults with MDD to a health control group of a similar age they were able to detect the differences in the two groups.

In patients with MDD, FDDNP binding was significantly higher throughout the brain and in critical brain regions including those that involve decision-making, complex reasoning, memory and emotions. “This is the first study using FDDNP to assess the abnormal protein levels in brains of older adults with severe depression,: said the senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA’s Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. “The findings suggest that the higher protein load in critical brain regions may contribute to the development of severe depression in late life.”

“We may find that depression in the elderly may be an initial manifestation of progressive neurodegenerative disease,” said lead author, Dr. Anand Kumar, the Lizzie Gilman Professor and department head of psychiatry at the University of Illinois At Chicago. “Brain scans using FDDNP allow us to take a closer look at the different types fo protein deposits and track them to see how clinical symptoms develop.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Archives of General Psychiatry

 
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