Depression in older adults may be correlated with memory loss due to accelerated brain aging, according to the findings of a study published earlier this year in the journal Neurology. Based on the results of the study, which involved older adult subjects (mean age of 71), researchers learned of a potential link in this older demographic between the presence of depressive symptoms and impaired baseline episodic memory, whole brain atrophy, and an elevated risk of subclinical brain infarcts. The subclinical brain infarcts consisted of brain regions with tissue loss due to inadequate oxygen levels, likely resulting from undetected transient ischemic attacks, or ministrokes (Practical Neurology, 2018).
Participants were required to meet several criteria to be chosen for the study and underwent an initial assessment before a final group was selected. Requirements for eligibility included a minimum age of 50 years, no history of stroke, and no contraindications for MRI. A series of cognitive and mood tests were run to determine the presence of depressive symptoms. After a period of five years, there were ultimately 888 individuals in the final group of participants for this study (Practical Neurology, 2018).
Several key findings emerged from test results in this pool of study participants. It should be noted that socioeconomic factors, behavioral and vascular risk factors, and antidepressant use were adjusted for prior to the test scores from this study. Those in the group with depressive symptoms had worse test scores of episodic memory compared to those without symptoms of depression. Moreover, subjects with depressive symptoms had smaller intracranial volumes and increased rates of occult infarcts at baseline (Practical Neurology, 2018).
These study findings highlight the importance of seeking diagnosis and treatment for symptoms of depression, as the disease may deteriorate brain health at an accelerated pace, particularly in older populations.
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Depression in Older Adults May Be Linked to Memory Loss. (2018). Practical Neurology, 17(5), 9-10.