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2016 Grants - Gatchel
Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms and Tau PET Imaging in Alzheimer’s Disease
Jennifer Gatchel, M.D., Ph.D.
Massachusetts General Hospital
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Clinical Fellowship (AACF)
How are depression and anxiety related to brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease?
Many people who have Alzheimer’s disease also experience neuropsychiatric symptoms including depression and anxiety. These symptoms can occur during all stages of the disease and may lead to more rapid declines in everyday function and cognitive abilities. Recent evidence suggests that the Alzheimer’s disease process disrupts parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood and emotion, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood.
Jennifer Gatchel, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues will study how depression and anxiety may be related to changes in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Gatchel’s team will enroll 200 participants into their study including 50 individuals who have early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and 150 cognitively normal older adults. The researchers will measure the accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau in the brain using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. This imaging technique uses special “tracers” that highlight the amount and location of plaques and tangles in the living brain. The researchers will also use another imaging method known as resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) to visualize the activity of brain circuits involved in regulating mood and emotion. They will evaluate the participants for depression and anxiety and determine how this relates to changes in brain structure and function.
These studies may provide new insights into how brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease relate to the development of depression and anxiety. A better understanding of these mechanisms could guide the advancement of treatments aimed at preventing or reducing neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease.