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Is a Marker of Preclinical Alzheimer’s Associated with Loneliness?

Summary: Higher levels of cortical amyloid levels linked to loneliness and an increased Alzheimer’s risk, according to a new study.

Source: JAMA Network.

A new article published online by JAMA Psychiatry used data from a study of 79 cognitively normal adults to examine whether cortical amyloid levels in the brain, a marker of preclinical Alzheimer disease, was associated with self-reported loneliness.

Alzheimer disease (AD) is a process that moves through preclinical, mild cognitive impairment and dementia stages before it leads to progressive neuropsychiatric, cognitive and functional declines. Loneliness has been associated with cognitive and functional decline and an increased risk of AD dementia.

Nancy J. Donovan, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and coauthors used imaging as a measure of cortical amyloid levels in the brain and a loneliness scale to indicate levels of loneliness. The study included 43 women and 36 men with an average age of about 76.

Of the participants, 22 (28 percent) were carriers of the genetic risk factor apolipoprotein E ?4 (APOE?4) and 25 (32 percent) were in the amyloid-positive group based on volume in imaging. The participants’ average loneliness score was 5.3 on a scale of 3 to 12.

The authors report higher cortical amyloid levels were associated with greater loneliness after controlling for age, sex, APOE4, socioeconomic status, depression, anxiety and social network. Participants in the amyloid-positive group were 7.5 times more likely to be classified as lonely then nonlonely compared with individuals in the amyloid-negative group. The association between high amyloid levels and loneliness also was stronger in APOE4 carriers than in noncarriers, according to the results.

Image shows a lady sitting alone.

Limitations of the study include the demographic profile of the participants who had high intelligence and educational attainment but limited racial and socioeconomic diversity. The participants also had better mental and physical health. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.

Limitations of the study include the demographic profile of the participants who had high intelligence and educational attainment but limited racial and socioeconomic diversity. The participants also had better mental and physical health.

“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. 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 study concludes.

About this Alzheimer’s disease research article

Source: Johanna Younghans – JAMA Network
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Association of Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden With Loneliness in Cognitively Normal Older Adults” by Nancy J. Donovan, MD; Olivia I. Okereke, MD, SM; Patrizia Vannini, PhD; Rebecca E. Amariglio, PhD; Dorene M. Rentz, PsyD; Gad A. Marshall, MD; Keith A. Johnson, MD; and Reisa A. Sperling, MD in JAMA Psychiatry. Published online November 2 2016 doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2657

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
JAMA Network. “Is a Marker of Preclinical Alzheimer’s Associated with Loneliness?.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 2 November 2016.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/loneliness-alzheimers-neurology-5417/>.
JAMA Network. (2016, November 2). Is a Marker of Preclinical Alzheimer’s Associated with Loneliness?. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved November 2, 2016 from http://neurosciencenews.com/loneliness-alzheimers-neurology-5417/
JAMA Network. “Is a Marker of Preclinical Alzheimer’s Associated with Loneliness?.” http://neurosciencenews.com/loneliness-alzheimers-neurology-5417/ (accessed November 2, 2016).

Abstract

Association of Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden With Loneliness in Cognitively Normal Older Adults

Importance Emotional and behavioral symptoms in cognitively normal older people may be direct manifestations of Alzheimer disease (AD) pathophysiology at the preclinical stage, prior to the onset of mild cognitive impairment. Loneliness is a perceived state of social and emotional isolation that has been associated with cognitive and functional decline and an increased risk of incident AD dementia. We hypothesized that loneliness might occur in association with elevated cortical amyloid burden, an in vivo research biomarker of AD.

Objective To determine whether cortical amyloid burden is associated with greater loneliness in cognitively normal older adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants Cross-sectional analyses using data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study of 79 cognitively normal, community-dwelling participants. A continuous, aggregate measure of cortical amyloid burden, determined by Pittsburgh Compound B–positron emission tomography (PiB-PET), was examined in association with loneliness in linear regression models adjusting for age, sex, apolipoprotein E ε4 (APOEε4), socioeconomic status, depression, anxiety, and social network (without and with the interaction of amyloid and APOEε4). We also quantified the association of high amyloid burden (amyloid-positive group) to loneliness (lonely group) using logistic regression, controlling for the same covariates, with the amyloid-positive group and the lonely group, each composing 32% of the sample (n = 25).

Main Outcomes and Measures Loneliness, as determined by the 3-item UCLA Loneliness Scale (possible range, 3-12, with higher score indicating greater loneliness).

Results The 79 participants included 43 women and 36 men with a mean (SD) age of 76.4 (6.2) years. Mean (SD) cortical amyloid burden via PiB-PET was 1.230 (0.209), and the mean (SD) UCLA-3 loneliness score was 5.3 (1.8). Twenty-two (28%) had positive APOEε4 carrier status, and 25 (32%) were in the amyloid-positive group with cortical PiB distribution volume ratio greater than 1.2. Controlling for age, sex, APOEε4, socioeconomic status, depression, anxiety, and social network, we found that higher amyloid burden was significantly associated with greater loneliness: compared with individuals in the amyloid-negative group, those in the amyloid-positive group were 7.5-fold (95% CI, 1.7-fold to 34.0-fold) more likely to be classified as lonely than nonlonely (β = 3.3, partial r = 0.4, P = .002). Furthermore, the association of high amyloid burden and loneliness was stronger in APOEε4 carriers than in noncarriers.

Conclusions and Relevance
We report a novel association of loneliness with cortical amyloid burden in cognitively normal older adults, suggesting that loneliness is a neuropsychiatric symptom relevant to preclinical AD. This work will inform new research into the neural underpinnings and disease mechanisms involved in loneliness and may enhance early detection and intervention research in AD.

“Association of Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden With Loneliness in Cognitively Normal Older Adults” by Nancy J. Donovan, MD; Olivia I. Okereke, MD, SM; Patrizia Vannini, PhD; Rebecca E. Amariglio, PhD; Dorene M. Rentz, PsyD; Gad A. Marshall, MD; Keith A. Johnson, MD; and Reisa A. Sperling, MD in JAMA Psychiatry. Published online November 2 2016 doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2657

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