The study found a link between increased cortical amyloid levels and loneliness that could influence Alzheimer's in a patient.
A new study into Alzheimer’s disease has discovered a precursor to the memory-debilitating condition, and it’s loneliness meaning people who spend a lot of time alone are at a higher risk.
Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in three different stages. The first stage is where doctors diagnose how severe the disease is – preclinical, mild cognitive impairment or more severe dementia. The study looked at this stage in particular to find out factors that influence the steady decline.
The research team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, led by Nancy Donovan, MD, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment, measured the cortical amyloid levels in the brain and used a scale of loneliness to determine participants idea and current state of interaction with others.
“We report a novel association of loneliness and cortical amyloid burden in cognitively normal adults and present evidence for loneliness as a neuropsychiatric symptom relevant to preclinical AD,” explained the study.
The study involved 79 participants between the ages of 65 and 90 who all had normal cognitive functioning at the start of the study. They found the amyloid levels in the brain were 7.5 times likely to be higher in someone who was rated highly on the The UCLA Loneliness Scale and therefore suggesting loneliness could possibly contribute to changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s.
Researchers are hoping the factor of loneliness can be looked at more closely in someone who is newly diagnosed or focused on as a preventative to the disease in older individuals.
“This work will inform new research into the neurobiology of loneliness and other socioemotional changes in late life and may enhance early detection and intervention research in AD,” the researchers said.
Details of the study were published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.