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Study reveals symptom of a shrinking brain in seniors

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?


It might be common for those in their golden years to develop some kind of apathetic feelings, but a new study suggests those feelings could be a sign of a shrinking brain.

According to the study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, researchers in the Netherlands looked at the brains of more than 4,300 seniors. Those with at least two symptoms of apathy - such as a lack of interest or enthusiasm - had significantly less brain volume than those with fewer symptoms.

The researchers measured two parts of the brain - gray matter where memories are stored and white matter, which controls the brain's communication system. They found the brains of apathetic individuals actually contained both less gray and white matter. (Via National Geographic)

According to HealthDay, the researchers noted the apathetic individuals had decreased brain volume even without any signs of depression, which has been linked to brain shrinkage in the past.

Currently, tests for depression don't recognize signs of apathy. But the researchers say the findings suggest apathy alone could indicate brain disease and the medical community should develop ways to identify it when screening for depression.

The researchers aren't really sure about the linkage between apathy and a smaller brain. It's unclear whether apathy causes brain shrinkage or if brain shrinkage causes apathy.

A medical professional not associated with the study tells USA Today, "It could be that in some people, [apathy] signals a pending developing generative disease or cognitive impairment or even early signs of depression."

But according to Medical News Today, one of the study's authors says: "Apathy symptoms are common in older people without dementia. And the fact that participants in our study had apathy without depression should turn our attention to how apathy alone could indicate brain disease."

It should be noted, the seniors were not formally diagnosed with apathy, and the study does not determine whether apathy is an early sign of other conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

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meryleeweisman April 18 2014 at 10:31 AM

Generalized apathy in itself, simply being disinterested in what is going on around you, is abnormal. But is what is being discussed true general apathy? I am not so sure. I am thinking it is more like selectivity. That is a QUALITY developed with age and experience.

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michaele April 18 2014 at 9:46 AM

Im just plain bored with alot of stuff people talk about, stuff I was not into in the first place. When my sons starts talking about some of thier favorite things I want to stab my self in the ears. But instead I make an excuse to leave the room. At 64, Im just not into guns, sex, rapmusic/rap stars , vidoe games. I was an RN and can still remember how to do tx despite the fact that I havent worked in12 yrs. So interest depends on subject matter for alot of people.

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2 replies
Gayle michaele April 18 2014 at 9:59 AM

I agree. I can nod or smile when not interested and also find something to do in the kitchen or another room.

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mcbetty65 michaele April 18 2014 at 10:30 AM

Ditto, here. As a former nurse, I can usually offer good advice for a medical emergency; but I am not into new age music or the behavior of most young people.

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nansea762 April 18 2014 at 9:44 AM

This study is amazing..My own mother is 97 years of age...and she lives in my household. She does not like to miss any newscast programs...She loves the talk shows and also comedy...She has a great old past memory also...There are some recent time events she forgets and I have to remind her..What day her grandson is off from work ..etc..Other than that She definately loves keeping up..She will be in a neighbors wedding next week standing as her maid of HONOR......!She can still go to the mall and do some shopping and attend church services. Wow ..hope I inherit her genes....Most people do not believe her age.

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callahanbts April 18 2014 at 10:07 AM

Maybe older people should be actually DOING these studies. Many older people have seen the themes that life offers up over and over - these topics just aren't all that interesting anymore. My understanding is that older adults can and do continue to learn and grow, but that instead of being dictated to what is important to know, they require that something have some personal meaning for them. If someone is no longer keen to keep up with the newest products, not keen to subscribe to whatever the latest trendy workplace ideology being mandated is, I don't see why it should be construed as dementia-related apathy. Silly how we pathologize everything now - more money for academicians and drug companies?

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2 replies
Mitch callahanbts April 18 2014 at 10:38 AM

Maybe the compassionate are trying to find ways to help everyone stay involved in life, instead of sitting in a rocker, brain rotting in front of a screen spewing advertisements.

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vicduc callahanbts April 18 2014 at 11:09 AM

You are misconstruing the meaning of apathy. Apathy means "Lack of feeling, emotion or sensation; indifference." (Funk and Wagnalls Jr Dictionary - so you could understand it more easily.) It is the person who sits in the rocking chair all of the time staring at nothing. Just ignoring "trendy workplace ideology" is often quite wise. Speaking from the time honored place of the aged, I am.

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Bob April 18 2014 at 9:16 AM

I'm 81 and notice that a lot of people around my age have expressed the fact that they don't watch the news anymore because there's no point in keeping up with what's going on. I'm finding it more difficult to engage my peers in current events. I get excited about new inventions etc and the feedback is usually uninterest. Very few of my peers get excited about what's going on in the world. I'm hoping I never reach this stage.

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2 replies
LA is Best Bob April 18 2014 at 9:43 AM

Keep up the good work, Bob..........If you don't use it you loose it!

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nansea762 Bob April 18 2014 at 9:45 AM

Good for you Bob ..you need to meet my mother..lol lol

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Jim Silberman April 18 2014 at 8:58 AM

When you reach the last part of your life and there is much more road behind you than ahead of you, it's difficult to must the same level of enthusiasm you had in your twenties. What's "good" or "bad" is a matter of degree and one mechanism for coping with aging is lowering one's expectations to fit reality. Decreased physical stamina, reduced social exposure, tighter budgetary constraints all tend to be a fact of life with older people. Not caring about anyone or anything obviously suggests a problem, but if older people don't react the way younger people do it's because this is not their first rodeo.

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Harriet April 18 2014 at 8:56 AM

Sounds right to me. Learning and studying new ideas as well as old ideas and having discussions with friends not only keeps the brain strong and alive but the soul as well. Keep learning something new every day.

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usethis11111 April 18 2014 at 8:41 AM

Apathy? As in being more at peace with what is happening? Accepting what is? I am 75 and working toward being in that state.

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2 replies
Harriet usethis11111 April 18 2014 at 8:57 AM

too bad.

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clewan01 usethis11111 April 18 2014 at 9:08 AM

there is a kind of peace there. You can only do what you can do.

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cayce58 April 18 2014 at 10:12 AM

You realize that if not giving a chit means a smaller brain, it shrinks from age 10 to 16 and then starts to grow again.

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wajguy April 18 2014 at 9:59 AM

WELL NOT ONLY SENIORS - ALSO PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON

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2 replies
Samella wajguy April 18 2014 at 10:27 AM

Right ON!!!!!

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Mitch wajguy April 18 2014 at 10:46 AM

Mostly in the Bath Salt wing of the GOP Crack House.

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