Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Learning About Alzheimer’s Risk Does Not Negatively Affect Older Adults’ Mental Health in Short Term, Study Suggests

Older individuals who are informed by health care professionals that they have elevated levels of the protein amyloid—a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease—do not appear to experience adverse short-term psychological responses compared with those who learn their amyloid levels are normal, according to a report in JAMA Neurology.

“We found that trial participants who did not have cognitive impairment and received an elevated amyloid result were no more likely than those receiving a not elevated amyloid result to experience depression, anxiety, or catastrophic reactions in the short term,” wrote lead author Joshua Grill, Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues.

Grill and colleagues analyzed data from the Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic AD (A4) Study, an ongoing randomized clinical trial of the medication solanezumab for Alzheimer’s that began in 2014. As part of the trial, participants aged 65 to 85 years underwent brain scans to assess amyloid levels. The sample consisted of 1,167 individuals who learned that they had elevated levels of amyloid, and 538 participants who were told their amyloid levels were normal.

Before and after disclosure of amyloid status, participants completed the Geriatric Depression Scale, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale. The average period between being informed of amyloid status and completing the follow-up psychological assessments was between 41 and 56 days for all participants.

The researchers found that participants who learned they had elevated amyloid levels did not report significantly higher scores on these assessments compared with those who learned their status was normal.

In contrast, scores on a scale measuring concerns about Alzheimer’s increased significantly in those with elevated amyloid, indicating that individuals with elevated amyloid levels understood that their biomarker result conferred increased risk for dementia.

“This perception of increased risk … did not appear to be associated with adverse psychological reactions, namely anxiety or depression,” the researchers wrote. “Whether such associations develop over time will be a key area of future research.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Are Amyloid and Tau Good Biomarkers For Alzheimer’s Disease?

(Image: iStock/wenht)


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