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Anxiety: An early indicator of Alzheimer's disease?

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

may be an early indicator of in older adults, according to a study that suggests an association between elevated beta levels and the worsening of symptoms.

is a neurodegenerative condition that causes the decline of cognitive function and the inability to carry out daily life activities.

Past studies have suggested and other neuropsychiatric symptoms may be predictors of AD's progression during its "preclinical" phase, during which time brain of fibrillar and pathological tau accumulate in a patient's brain.

This phase can occur more than a decade before a patient's onset of

Researchers at Brigham and in the US examined the association of brain beta and longitudinal measures of and depressive symptoms in cognitively normal, older adults.

Their findings, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that higher levels of may be associated with increasing symptoms of in these individuals.

These results support the theory that neuropsychiatric symptoms could be an early indicator of AD.

"Rather than just looking at as a total score, we looked at specific symptoms such as anxiety. When compared to other symptoms of depression such as sadness or loss of interest, anxiety symptoms increased over time in those with higher levels in the brain," said Nancy Donovan, from Brigham and

"This suggests that anxiety symptoms could be a manifestation of prior to the onset of cognitive impairment," said Donovan.

"If further research substantiates anxiety as an early indicator, it would be important for not only identifying people early on with the disease, but also, treating it and potentially slowing or preventing the disease process early on," she said.

As anxiety is common in older people, rising anxiety symptoms may prove to be most useful as a risk marker in older adults with other genetic, biological or clinical indicators of high AD risk.

The researchers derived data from the Aging Brain Study, an observational study of older adult volunteers aimed at defining neurobiological and clinical changes in early Alzheimer's disease.

The participants included 270 community dwelling, cognitively normal men and women, between 62 and 90 years old, with no

Individuals also underwent baseline imaging scans commonly used in studies of Alzheimer's disease, and annual assessments with the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), an assessment used to detect depression in older adults.

The researchers calculated total GDS scores as well as scores for three clusters symptoms of depression: apathy- anhedonia, dysphoria, and anxiety. These scores were looked at over a span of five years.

From their research, they found that higher brain amyloid beta burden was associated with increasing anxiety symptoms over time in cognitively normal older adults.

The results suggest that worsening anxious-depressive symptoms may be an early predictor of elevated levels - and, in turn AD - and provide support for the hypothesis that emerging neuropsychiatric symptoms represent an early manifestation of

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, January 13 2018. 13:55 IST