Loneliness May Be Early Symptom of Alzheimer’s in Cognitively Normal Older People

Loneliness May Be Early Symptom of Alzheimer’s in Cognitively Normal Older People
A recently published study contends that older, cognitively healthy people who report feelings of loneliness have higher levels of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid-beta in the brain — a finding that was not linked to depression. The experience of feeling lonely also was not connected to how extensive a person's social networks really were. The study, "Association of Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden With Loneliness in Cognitively Normal Older Adults," published in JAMA Psychiatry, suggests that loneliness may signal the advent of Alzheimer’s disease. But such an idea needs further investigation to understand the brain changes influencing subjective feelings of social isolation. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts recruited 79 older people from the Harvard Aging Brain Study, who underwent brain scans to measure the amount of amyloid-beta. The participants, of which 55% were women, also were assessed with tools measuring loneliness, anxiety, and social network characteristics. None of the participants had any major psychiatric diseases. To get an idea of how lonely participants felt, researchers asked them three questions: “How often do you feel you lack companionship?” “How often do you feel left out?” and “How often do you feel isolated from others?” It turned out that people who had higher levels of amyloid-beta reported loneliness more often, also when taking into account other factors that might have explained the association. For each level of increase in amyloid-beta, the ri
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