NARSAD Grant-Funded Research Finds Links Between Depression and Dementia

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Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, Alzheimer's Disease and Depression Expert
Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH

NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee, Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor, University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), is the lead author of a new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry that found that depressive symptoms that occur in both midlife and latelife are associated with an increased risk of developing vascular dementia, while symptoms that occur in late life only are more likely to be early signs of Alzheimer's disease.

A co-author of the study, Kristine Yaffe, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, is a three-time NARSAD grantee (once as an Independent Investigator and twice as a Young Investigator).

The study, conducted by researchers at the UCSF and Kaiser Permanente, is the first to examine whether midlife or late-life depression is more likely to lead to either Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia in the long term. The researchers reported that depression that strikes for the first time in later life may be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, while depression in the middle years that recurs later may be one of the causes of vascular dementia. Their findings suggest that effective treatment of chronic depression in mid-life might help to maintain cognitive function and ward off at least some forms of dementia.

This new study relates directly to Dr. Barnes' NARSAD grant in 2009 for the “Impact of Depression over the Life-Long Course on Risk of Dementia.”  

Both Drs. Barnes and Yaffee were highlighted in our Discoveries section last year for their research that found that more than 50% of cases of Alzheimer's Disease could be prevented through lifestyle changes and reducing major risk factors like low education, smoking, lack of exercise, and treating and preventing chronic conditions like depression, diabetes and mid-life high blood pressure and obesity.

Read more about this new research

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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