Higher self-awareness of memory complaints predict brain function decline

In one of the first studies of its kind, a UCLA team found that a higher self awareness of memory difficulties may be associated with brain function decline over time, particularly in older adults with a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease.

Published in the April issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, the study offers a greater understanding of how different types and varying degrees of memory complaints may relate to brain function decline, a finding that may lead to early treatment interventions for people who could develop Alzheimer's disease.

"There's a lot of confusion about memory complaints and whether they should be taken seriously or not," said Dr. Linda Ercoli, lead study author and assistant clinical professor at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "The study is one of the first to show an association between memory complaints and underlying brain function decline and although not every complaint will lead to Alzheimer's disease, it's important to listen when patients talk about their memory concerns."

The UCLA team tested 30 adults, age 50-82, with memory complaints. Half of the participants carried the apolipoprotein E-4 allele or APOE-4, a gene associated with Alzheimer's disease. All participants did not have other conditions such as depression and anxiety that can also affect memory.

Volunteers were given a questionnaire at the start of the study to gauge the frequency, seriousness and type of memory complaints. Researchers measured brain function at both the beginning and end of the two-year study using positron emission tomography (PET). PET scans measure brain activity by revealing the amount of glucose metabolized by the brain as fuel. Researchers then measured how complaints were related to decline in brain activity over two years.

The study found that for all participants, greater complaints of frequent forgetting were associated with a global brain decli

Contact: Rachel Champeau
University of California - Los Angeles

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