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2016 Grants - Johnson
Inflammation as a Pathway for the Depression – Cognition Link
Leigh Johnson, Ph.D.
University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth
Fort Worth, Texas
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Can blood-based biomarkers for inflammation help predict if depression increases the risk for cognitive decline?
Research suggests that depression is a risk factor for the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Inflammation in the brain is associated with both depression and Alzheimer’s, suggesting it may be a common mechanism that links these two diseases. It is not yet known if inflammation and depression may work “synergistically” to promote brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Initial studies by Leigh Johnson, Ph.D., and colleagues found that elderly Mexican-American individuals with depression scored more poorly on tests of memory, language and other cognitive functions. Although Mexican-Americans represent the fastest growing segment of the aging population in the U.S., very little research has focused on Alzheimer’s disease in this group. Dr. Leigh and colleagues will investigate if levels of inflammatory molecules in the blood can serve as a biomarker to help identify and predict individuals with depression who may be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Johnson and colleagues will conduct a study to determine if the level of inflammatory biomarkers in the blood relates cognitive function in a group of 600 elderly Mexican American adults who are enrolled in the Health and Aging Brain Study among Latino Elders (HABLE) study. They hypothesize that participants with depression and increased levels of inflammation will show accelerated progression of cognitive decline over the 2-year study period. This work will inform the development of future studies to examine if drugs that reduce inflammation could help preserve cognitive function.
The results of this work may shed new light on inflammation as a link between depression and cognitive decline in an understudied Latino population. Importantly this work could identify novel blood-based biomarkers to help detect individuals with depression at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.