Psychiatric Symptoms And Alzheimer’s Disease: What’s The Connection?

Psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, and loss of appetite, are markers and early catalysts of future Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study. And by the time the symptoms of dementia emerge in Alzheimer’s, it is already too late to reverse the disease. Tissue damage is well underway in the brain.


There are 5.7 million people with Alzheimer’s disease living in the United States. This figure is likely to reach almost 14 million by 2050.



psychiatric symptoms



Scientists studied results of postmortem brain tissue tests and compared them with psychiatric symptoms obtained from detailed interviews.

Family members, and caregivers were questioned.


The results, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, indicates that psychiatric symptoms are not the cause of Alzheimer’s, but more likely early indicators and catalysts of it.


These results could help doctors to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease much earlier and thereby provide therapies to either slow its progress or even reverse it.


Even more, investigators believe that these findings suggest these people with neuropsychiatric symptoms are not at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, they already have it! Early detection would save the nation trillions of dollars in care and medical costs.


Alzheimer’s is currently the leading cause of dementia and has some specific biological features. The main hallmarks are two types of abnormal proteins found inside and around the brain cells.

Tau tangles are found inside the brain cells, whereas  beta-amyloid plaques reside between the cells.  Both groups block nerve transmissions and the brains ability to send messages. The result is mental and physical decline, culminating with death.


Psychiatric Symptoms: Study Results

Brain tissue samples from from 1,092 adults aged over 50 who died between 2004 and 2014 were studied. These samples were correlated to

postmortem interviews with family members, friends, and caregivers of the deceased.


The results showed significant links between psychiatric and cognitive measures and patterns of tau tangle in brain cells.

Symptoms of anxiety, agitation, depression, sleep disruption, and appetite changes, were linked to early-stage Alzheimer’s. There was clear evidence of  tau tangles in the brain stem. The link was present even though the individuals concerned had shown no outward evidence of Alzheimer’s.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, tau tangles start to build up in the outer cortex of the brain. Brain samples from individuals with tau tangles in the outer cortex, also showed high levels of agitation. In addition, several individuals also showed a decline in memory, thinking ability, and delusions.


These results could also be added to screening, together with  brain scans and blood tests. Catching Alzheimer’s onset at the beginning increases the opportunity to mitigate and perhaps even reverse this deadly disease.

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