The Unspoken Emotions of Dementia

By: Bel Marra Health | Brain Function | Friday, August 10, 2012 - 05:19 AM

dementia and depressionElderly individuals are commonly observed to develop dementia, or the reduction in the cognitive ability, which includes forgetfulness, lack of attention, and increased difficulty in solving simple problems. Previous studies have associated dementia, including forgetfulness, with the deterioration of the brain, as part of the process of aging. For patients positively diagnosed with dementia, this mental impairment may even affect their loved ones, especially when forgetfulness erases memories of happy times together. For some, the inability of an elderly loved one to recognize one’s spouse, children, or grandchildren can be painful.

The Report on Dementia and Depression

According to a recent medical report published in the journal Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, a certain proportion of patients with dementia are more prone to develop depression, based on specific characteristics of the frontal lobe of their brain. The investigators of this study wanted to determine if there was a relationship between certain regions of the brain and the risk of developing depression among patients with dementia. This study involved the participation of approximately 77 elderly individuals who have been positively diagnosed with mild dementia. These individuals were interviewed and examined for various neuropsychological features.

To screen for depression, the study participants were assessed using the standard depression scale (Montgomery-Asberg). In addition, these individuals also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the volume of a specific region of the brain, namely the white matter. It should be understood that the brain consists of two major components, the gray and the white matter. The gray matter serves as the processing centers or computers of the brain, whereas the white matter connects the various processing centers of the brain, allowing the smooth transmission of signals to elicit an action, idea, or simple keep a memory.

The study revealed that elderly subjects with dementia and larger white matter volumes showed a greater severity in their level of depression, as compared to those with dementia but without depression. The results of the study also showed that the elderly subjects suffering from forgetfulness and presented larger white matter volumes carried higher scores according to the depression rating scale. The severity of their depression also worsened upon follow-up after several years.

This recent study has directly shown that the brain plays a direct influence on the development of depression, especially when certain regions of the brain are affected. In the case of elderly individuals with dementia, the volume of the white matter of the brain served as an indication of depression. Coupling the symptoms of depression and dementia may thus indicate a more serious situation, as shown by the occurrence of two mental health conditions.

Aging and Forgetfulness

Aging is usually associated with the occurrence of forgetfulness, which is often considered as a highly common feature among elderly individuals. When an elderly loved one is observed to develop forgetfulness, family members often extend additional supervision and monitoring of the elderly, to ensure that the individual does not lose important items or forget to perform his or her daily tasks. Forgetfulness may also induce fear in an elderly individual, especially when the person notices the actual loss of memory of certain events in the past. Forgetfulness may also result in the loss of cognition of loved ones, including the spouse, children, and grandchildren.

The recent study involving MRI examination of the brain to establish the relationship between forgetfulness and depression has directly shown that the biological condition of an aging body, especially that of the brain, may hasten the development of depression. The occurrence of depression in an elderly who is struggling with forgetfulness may be a more serious condition, requiring extensive monitoring and assistance to prevent accidents and to improve an elderly person’s quality of life.


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