Depression has been associated with higher conversion rates from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and may be a potential clinical marker of prodromal AD that can be used to identify individuals with MCI who are most likely to progress to AD. Using tensor-based morphometry (TBM), we examined the longitudinal neuroanatomical changes associated with depressive symptoms in MCI.
243 MCI subjects from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) who had brain MRI scans at baseline and 2-year follow-up were classified into depressed (DEP, n=44), non-depressed with other neuropsychiatric symptoms (OTHER, n=93), and no-symptom (NOSYMP, n=106) groups based on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire (NPI-Q). TBM was used to create individual 3D-maps of 2-year brain changes that were compared between groups.
DEP subjects had more frontal (p=0.024), parietal (p=0.030), and temporal (p=0.038) white matter atrophy than NOSYMP subjects. A subset of DEP subjects whose depressive symptoms persisted over 2-years also had higher conversion to AD and more decline on measures of global cognition, language abilities, and executive functioning compared to stable NOSYMP subjects. OTHER and NOSYMP groups exhibited no differences in rates of atrophy.
Depressive symptoms in MCI subjects were associated with greater atrophy in AD-affected regions, increased cognitive decline, and higher rates of conversion to AD. Depression in individuals with MCI may be associated with underlying neuropathological changes including prodromal AD. Thus, assessment of depressive symptoms may be a potentially useful clinical marker in identifying MCI patients who are most likely to progress to AD.