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Majority of ALS patients are not depressed

ST. Paul, Minn. Contrary to what you might think, most people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are not depressed. They are also not more likely to get depressed as the end of life approaches, and they are not more likely to be depressed if they want to die or hasten their own death. Two new studies, published in the July 12 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, provide the evidence to contradict these assumptions.

The two studies involved the same group of 80 people with advanced ALS. To enter the study, participants had to have breathing difficulties with a forced vital capacity, or breathing power, of less than 50 percent of normal, which is related to a high likelihood of hospice admission and death or the need for mechanical ventilation within six months. The participants were assessed every month until death; 53 of the participants died during the study period.

The first study found that 57 percent of the participants were never depressed during the study period, and only eight percent were depressed at all visits. The researchers also found that people were not more likely to become depressed as death approached.

"It's remarkable that a majority of ALS patients have a more positive attitude toward life even as the inevitability of death is imminent," Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, MD, PhD, wrote with her colleague and mentor Richard K. Olney, MD, in an accompanying editorial. Olney was founder and director of the ALS Treatment and Research Center at the University of California-San Francisco before he was diagnosed with ALS in 2004 and turned over the reins to Lomen-Hoerth, his former student. The AAN presented Olney with a special Public Education Award for his efforts to raise awareness of the disease and money for research by sharing his story as a researcher/doctor turned patient with the national media.

"The resiliency of people with ALS is inspiring for all working in the
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Contact: Marilee Tuite
mtuite@aan.com
651-695-2789
American Academy of Neurology
11-Jul-2005


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