There is a strong link between symptoms of depression and cognitive decline, new research from Edith Cowan University has found.
Researchers examined 460 West Australian adults and found that people over 65 years old who exhibited specific signs of depression were more likely to suffer from memory problems.
Dr Hamid Sohrabi from ECU’s Centre of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Research and Care says the research laid the groundwork to develop a new screening test for cognitive decline caused by psychiatric comorbidities such as depression.
“We found that the signs of depression begin well before the symptoms of dementia begin manifesting,” he says.
“Our findings confirm there is a core group of symptoms that may enable us to differentiate between people at risk of developing dementia and normally aging individuals.
“This means we can develop a test that will allow us to differentiate between people at risk of developing dementia and normally ageing individuals.”
Dr Sohrabi says therapies developed to treat depression could be useful in preventing, or slowing the cognitive decline in elderly people.
“About half of all incidences of Alzheimer’s disease are associated with genetic risk factors.
This research will help us to screen the other half who do not possess these genetic risk factors for dementia including Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.
“If we can identify the subset of older adults where depression is a primary factor in cognitive decline they may benefit greatly from therapeutic interventions.
“This could take the form of antidepressant drugs as well as encouraging lifestyle changes that help combat depression such as exercise, getting enough sleep and social interaction.”
A depressive endophenotype of poorer cognition among cognitively healthy community-dwelling adults: results from the Western Australia memory study was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.