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Depression Declines As Alzheimer Disease Progresses

Researchers find that declining functional activity, but not declining cognition, predicts first episode

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Depression is common in Alzheimer disease (AD) patients and may be caused by a decline in functional activity rather than a decline in cognitive ability, according to a study in the December issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In addition, depression tends to decline as the disease progresses, the authors found.

Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., of Columbia University, New York, and colleagues studied 536 patients diagnosed with probable AD for up to 14 years and evaluated their depressive symptoms at six-month intervals using the Columbia Scale for Psychopathology in Alzheimer's Disease.

The researchers found that the prevalence of depressive symptoms was stable at approximately 40% during the first three years of follow-up, but that it declined to 28% by the fourth year and to 24% by the fifth year. They also found that functional activity as measured by the Blessed Dementia Rating Scale (BDRS), but not cognitive status as measured by the Modified Mini-Mental State (3MS), was a significant predictor of the first episode of depressive symptoms during follow-up.

"Future research should directly examine whether, in the context of rehabilitative treatment, increasing patients' level or perception of independence reduces depressive symptoms in AD," the authors conclude.

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