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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.

Join the discussion

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wallamalloo April 18 2014 at 3:21 PM

I just don't care enough to become apathetic...

Flag Reply +4 rate up
cecilbrelented April 18 2014 at 12:37 PM

A healthy diet is crucial for the elderly , in combating the ills of old age. At 75, my metal abilities have actually increased rather than decreased

Flag Reply +7 rate up
Jim Anderson April 18 2014 at 12:34 PM

What a way for me to loose weight!!! My 150 pound brain is shrinking! I wondered where the weight went. This may seem trivial BUT if you wish to keep the building of the brain connections, one of the best is to play games on a PC such as Hearts. Interactive games are not as intrinsic as those in Windows XP and 7. Forget Windows 8, they dropped these games BUT this old geek found a way to return them to Windows 8. I have yet to find a youngster that can keep up with me, mentally and physically.

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1 reply
Edgy01 Jim Anderson April 18 2014 at 1:09 PM

That would be "lose" weight. Loose is when something isn't tight.

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Pat April 18 2014 at 12:13 PM

Ridiculous! It is not apathy, it is just reality that some things are just not as important as we once thought they were. We just need to remember do not sweat the small stuff! I get sick of hearing how younger people can really know how their elders should feel!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
gigi Pat April 18 2014 at 12:48 PM

Amen, my grandchildren still think I am a cool person and want to do things to help me. A lot is in the attitude we as Seniors adopt as we get older.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ncinkman April 18 2014 at 12:04 PM

So, the bottom line here is that someone got paid to write an article about nothing. Hmm, maybe this could be a new and exciting Seinfeld venture. After all, we really do miss George.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
dubricus April 18 2014 at 11:55 AM

It can be very hard to find something to care about when you realize that so many things that you'd planned for "one of these days" are not going to happen. One has to discard & find something new, but that may not be all that easy if there are physical issues (problematic eyesight, hearing, arthritis) or financial issues. One also reaches a point at which one realizes that not a lot of it matters anyway, because what's going to happen is going to happen.... One realizes one is much less in charge of one's life than one imagined. Those that never demonstrate apathy or depression are one's that either find a way to ignore mortality creeping up on them, or simply never think deeply enough or darkly enough to consider it.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
4 replies
bshum3 April 18 2014 at 5:07 PM

Your brain and spinal cord are bathed in Cholesterol . As we age big pharma and the docs all prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs..... hmmm.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
robtucan bshum3 April 18 2014 at 6:56 PM

sounds like you got your prescription. LOL

Flag Reply +1 rate up
thomcit bshum3 April 18 2014 at 8:01 PM

"Big Pharms" and "Docs" conspiring to bathe your brain and spinal cord in Cholesterol. Perhaps a bit too paranoid? Hopefully, you or a family member will mention this to your physician (assuming he or she isn't in on the conspiracy). Hmmm. Oh yeah, as a physician, I know the results of a recent study were released. Researchers found a "possible" link between statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) and a slight loss of cognitive function in patients over the age of 75. As for your knowledge of pharmacology (meds) , the neurosciences (which includes the brain and spinal cord) and effects one has on the other, you should probably refrain from sharing your limited knowledge.

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1 reply
bshum3 thomcit April 18 2014 at 9:47 PM

No , your brain and nerves are supposed to be coated in a certain type of cholesterol . It is those that assume that the statin drugs that lower cholesterol are necessary for everyone . My cholesterol levels are around 100 , yet , I was given a cholesterol statin drug. Most people have no knowledge that there are well over 300 types of cholesterol in the human body . Also it is listed as a daily requirement of your nutritional needs .

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franknav1 April 18 2014 at 11:45 AM

I forgot what I wanted to say!!!!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
gone2thewinds April 18 2014 at 6:09 PM

I think more men than women have shrunken brains. I think it happens when sexual function stops for them and never returns. I also think it is very sad that it happens that way. Women can function sexually forever, but men have to opt out much earlier in life and that just doesn't feel fair for men. It should be more balanced for both genders. KMG

Flag Reply +5 rate up
marlly9337 April 18 2014 at 10:16 PM

researchers "aren't really sure". they suggest, it's unclear, "it could be"........why even print it??

Flag Reply +10 rate up
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