The relationship between later life depression and Alzheimer’s disease: bystander or participant? (Pilot Grant)

See glossary at bottom of page for definition of underlined words.

Summary

Later-life depression and dementia are thought to be linked through similar changes to the blood vessels in the brain. This research seeks to assess this link by looking at brain tissue from groups of people who suffer with dementia, those who suffer from later-life depression and those who do not suffer from either. 

What do we already know?

Depression and dementia are common diseases but the link between them has not been fully characterised. It has been estimated that late life depression leads to a doubling of the risk of dementia, but it is not clear whether later life depression is an early sign of dementia, or a risk factor for dementia developing.

What are we trying to find out?

It has been hypothesised that changes in blood circulation in the brain (vascular changes) are associated with depression in later life. These vascular changes are also thought to play a large part in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This project seeks to characterise the link between later-life depression and dementia – and to characterise the link of both disorders to vascular changes in the brain. 

How will this be done?

The main hypothesis of this work is to understand whether a link between dementia and depression exists. Tissues of different groups of patients will be analysed. The levels of specific proteins of the tissue will be measured and compared. By comparing the brain tissue of sufferers of dementia and sufferers of later-life depression we hope to find out whether later life depression is an early sign of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), or if it seems to be a risk factor for AD.

Why is this important?

By understanding some of the biggest contributors to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) this research has the potential to delay the onset of AD. A delay of 5 years would lead to a reduction in the number of sufferers of this disease by 36%. This research has the potential to understand the neurological changes that occur in the brains of patients who suffer from AD and later-life depression – something which is not yet fully understood.

Glossary

Later-life depression – A bout of depression that typically occurs for the first time in older patients.
Vascular Changes – Changes to the blood vessels which are responsible for providing blood supply to the brain. 
Neurological Changes – Changes to the neurones (brain cells) that make up the neurological system of the brain.

Further Information

Please click here to learn more about Dr Lindsey Sinclair's research