Yonas Endale GedaMild cognitive impairment (MCI) is known to be a disorder of the brain that affects nerve cells involved in thinking abilities, to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia. A latest study commenced by the Mayo Clinic claims that apathy and depression considerably anticipates an individual’s progression from MCI. It has been ascertained that depression and apathy are difficult to distinguish neuropsychiatric symptoms.

While depression may result in alteration of mood, thinking, physical well-being and behavior, apathy is said to be a loss of motivation without associated feelings of being depressed or blue. While undertaking the study, Mayo scientists reported 358 individuals with mild cognitive impairment. These participants were subjected to filling in questionnaires which included questions on depression and apathy.

“An important area of study is the identification of biomarkers and clinical predictors for the progression from normal cognition to mild cognitive impairment and mild cognitive impairment to dementia. We knew from previous smaller studies that neuropsychiatric symptoms like depression, apathy and agitation seem to predict progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, so we set out to look at this hypothesis in a population-based setting with a larger sample size,” commentedYonas E. Geda, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neuropsychiatrist and the study’s lead investigator.

The outcome of dementia in a median of 2.8 years in individuals was monitored by the scientists. It was noted that from 87 individuals, 30 of them comprising 34.5 percent reported development of dementia. Experts revealed that from 271 individuals without depression, 59 appeared to develop dementia. On the other hand, from 60 individuals with apathy, 22 forming 36.7 percent seemed to develop dementia and among 298 individuals without apathy, 67 almost 22.5 percent apparently developed dementia.

Dr. Geda said, “These findings highlight the importance of thoroughly evaluating newly-diagnosed patients with mild cognitive impairment for neuropsychiatric symptoms. The next step is to conduct a study to find out if treatment of depression or apathy in MCI may delay the onset of dementia. This delay could have a huge impact on the quality of life for individual patients and their families, not to mention the broad public health implications of delaying the societal and economic burden of dementia. In fact, a previous biostatistics study from our colleagues at Johns Hopkins indicated that delaying dementia by a mere one year could reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease by nearly 800,000 million fewer cases in 2050.”

Individuals with mild cognitive impairment and depression seemed to face a 66 percent elevated risk of developing dementia as compared to those individuals with mild cognitive impairment without depression. It should be mentioned that the results were noted after adjusting for age, gender and education. Similarly, individuals with both the ailments faced a 99 percent heightened risk of developing dementia than individuals with mild cognitive impairment without apathy.

The study was presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Honolulu on July 11, 2010.