A new study published in JAMA Network Open indicates that depression in healthy older individuals, together with brain amyloid, a biological marker of Alzheimer’s, could trigger changes in memory and thinking over time.

According to Jennifer Gatchel, lead author of the study even modest levels of brain amyloid deposition can impact the relationship between depression symptoms and cognitive abilities. This study is among the first to reveal that this association is influenced by the presence of cortical amyloid in unimpaired older adults, even when depression symptoms are mild to moderate.

Depression in healthy older individuals may be among the early changes in the preclinical stages of dementia syndromes. These stages represent a clinical window of opportunity for closely monitoring at-risk individuals and for potentially introducing interventions to prevent or slow cognitive decline.
Mass General researchers also learned that not all older adults with depression symptoms and cortical amyloid will experience failing cognition. Other risk factors investigated by the authors that could modify the relationship between depression and cognition include brain metabolism and volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning and forming new memories.