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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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joe April 18 2014 at 2:42 PM

and they just discovered what many people have known for years now

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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.

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4 replies
KAY April 18 2014 at 3:29 PM


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Wonder Woman April 18 2014 at 3:29 PM

who cares?

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2 replies
Tuhloola11 Wonder Woman April 18 2014 at 4:02 PM

Maybe YOU will, when you get older. Or, were you trying to be apathetically funny ?

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ajafullmn Wonder Woman April 18 2014 at 4:25 PM

those of us living past 20.

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franknav1 April 18 2014 at 11:45 AM

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

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mo781 April 18 2014 at 3:57 PM

I don't have shrinking problema but memory loss sometimes so what's is best way correct the problems.

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ga7smi April 18 2014 at 4:03 PM

you need a brain for it to shrink - so most people have nothing to fear

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1 reply
WAYNE ga7smi April 18 2014 at 4:54 PM

So no panic among REPUBLICANS!!

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tcraw2000 April 18 2014 at 11:13 AM

I think it was back in the 70's they were working on a cure for Apathy, until one day they lost hope.........!

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virginia April 18 2014 at 4:41 PM

I say, "Why do you want to study our brain and tell us it is shrinking. We already know something is happening. No alledged authority is going to tell me my brain is shrinking. If it is, 'so what?' Age creeps up. Just leave us alone and let age creep us as it has in many years past. Don't start shooting supposedly miracle drugs into us to keep our brains from shrinking. " one question, how do you know how big my brain was when I was 40 years old. I am now 85 with a birthday into 86 coming at the end of this month. You who are so intelligent don't even b egin to know what I have fortoyyern.

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1 reply
virginia virginia April 18 2014 at 4:44 PM

Last sentence correction: You who are so intelligent, don't even begin to know what I have forgotten.
Example: WW2 memories.

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2 replies
prgrsiv virginia April 18 2014 at 6:15 PM

............don't think you have ANY shrinkage Virginia......:-)

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alang573 virginia April 18 2014 at 6:16 PM

Also, please note that the correct spelling of the second word in the third sentence of your comment is: "alleged" -- no "d".

This serves to illustrate that there's always room for more learning, at any age.

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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.

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2 replies
robtucan bshum3 April 18 2014 at 6:56 PM

sounds like you got your prescription. LOL

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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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