Doctors who work with individuals at risk of developing dementia have long suspected that patients who do not realize they experience memory problems are at greater risk of seeing their condition worsen in a short time frame, a suspicion that now has been confirmed in a new study.
Some brain conditions can interfere with a patient’s ability to understand they have a medical problem, a neurological disorder known as anosognosia often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in Neurology shows that individuals who experience this lack of awareness present a nearly threefold increase in likelihood of developing dementia within two years.
The researchers drew on data available through the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a global research effort in which participating patients agree to complete a variety of imaging and clinical assessments. When a patient reported having no cognitive problems but the family member reported significant difficulties, he was considered to have poor awareness of illness.
Researchers then compared the poor awareness group to the ones showing no awareness problems and found that those suffering from anosognosia had impaired brain metabolic function and higher rates of amyloid deposition, a protein known to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.
A follow up two years later showed that patients who were unaware of their memory problems were more likely to have developed dementia, even when taking into account other factors like genetic risk, age, gender and education. The increased progression to dementia was mirrored by increased brain metabolic dysfunction in regions vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
Article: “Anosognosia predicts default mode network hypometabolism and clinical progression to dementia”
Reprinted from materials provided by McGill University.