A study links neuropsychiatric symptoms with an early marker of Alzheimer’s

Risk markers for Alzheimer’s disease such as amyloid beta protein or neuroinflammation are related to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression during confinement by Covid-19. This is one of the main results of a study led by the research center of the Pasqual Maragall Foundationthe Barcelonaβeta Brain Research Center (BBRC).

The study, which was published in neurologyhas analyzed the negative impact of the Covid-19 confinement on mental health in cognitively healthy people and has been carried out with 921 participants of the ALFA Studydriven by the »la Caixa» Foundation. Of the total number of participants, the results with biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease of 254 people have been analyzed.

The research has studied, through multivariate analysis regression models, the association between biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s and sociodemographic factors, as well as the results of the hospital anxiety and depression scale questionnaire HADS (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale ) during lockdown and before.

In a previous evaluation, the majority of the study participants had standard levels of anxiety and depression and, in contrast, during confinement 16.6% of the participants suffered an increase in anxiety, while 9.9% declared symptoms depressives According to previous studies, this increase is considered clinically significant, and could have an impact on the quality of life of the participants.

This association is important because it may imply a worse clinical prognosis in people at risk of Alzheimer’s after the pandemic.

The cohort participating in the study, enriched by risk factors, has made it possible to establish the bases of a possible association between the pandemic and Alzheimer’s: the results indicate a relationship between risk markers related to the disease, such as amyloid protein and neuroinflammation, and the increase in anxious and depressive symptoms during confinement. This association is important because it may imply a worse clinical prognosis in people at risk of Alzheimer’s after the pandemic.

During the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s, there is an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression that can accelerate the progression of the disease. To this fact we must add that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, these symptoms have increased on a global scale, with long-term consequences for mental health and cognitive deterioration of vulnerable groups. “In this context, it was relevant to investigate the possible association between symptoms of anxiety and depression during confinement derived from Covid-19, and biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease”, explains Müge Akinci, BBRC researcher and lead author of the study. study.

Research has also explored the role of stress and lifestyle changes (sleep, eating, drinking, smoking, and medication use) during this period, as well as sociodemographic factors such as sex/gender differences and mental health of caregivers. Differences have been observed between men and women regarding the hours of sleep during confinement and in food consumption, as well as differences between caregivers and non-caregivers.

Anxiety and depression pose an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, and the prevalence observed in this study is higher among women. On the HADS scale, women have scored higher than men for symptoms of both anxiety and depression.

“In general, the results support the link between neuropsychiatric symptomatology and amyloid beta load in the brain in the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s, especially in the case of women,” says Eider Arenaza-Urquijo, researcher of the study and head of team at the BBRC. “Modest but significant changes are shown and therefore it is appropriate that they be taken into account in the clinical setting,” she concludes.


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