A large longitudinal study that tracked patients with prodromal Huntington’s disease now suggests that people who go on to develop Huntington’s disease show signs of psychiatric symptoms prior to the onset of motor symptoms that continue to worsen as the disease progresses. The study, which included 1,007 people carrying the Huntington’s disease mutation, 298 controls with no mutation, and 1,235 companions, identified 19 psychiatric measures (out of 24 assessed) that were significantly higher at baseline and increased over time in the individuals with the disease mutation compared with controls. The findings were published on Friday in AJP in Advance.
The differences in the psychiatric measures between patients and controls were greatest when they were rated by companions rather than the participants with the Huntington’s disease mutation—findings consistent with observations that individuals with Huntington’s disease have a decreased awareness of their symptoms as the disease progresses.
“The results reported here provide initial information regarding psychiatric symptoms that occur in individuals who will develop Huntington’s disease and the importance of obtaining assessments from companions,” the study authors wrote. “This is critical to consider in future studies that assess behavioral manifestations and psychiatric symptoms, including those that investigate their underlying pathophysiology in Huntington’s disease and in therapeutic trials, as well as clinical assessment and management of persons who will develop Huntington’s disease.”