Study lead Robert Stern: Treating neuropsychiatric symptoms key.

Measuring neuropsychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, agitation and irritability can help predict who will develop mild cognitive impairment, and who will progress to dementia.

So found researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine, who recently published a data analysis on depression and cognition in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They tracked 6,763 individuals participating in longitudinal research studies at 34 Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the U.S., all of whom received annual neurologic examinations and evaluations of their memory and cognitive functioning, as well as any neuropsychiatric symptoms.

The study showed individuals with normal cognition were more likely to progress to MCI if they had more depression, anxiety and other mood symptoms. Similarly, people who progressed to MCI were more likely to develop dementia if they had more neuropsychiatric symptoms.

During the study, about one-third of the participants who progressed to MCI reverted back to normal cognition, and they had significantly lower neuropsychiatric symptoms and a greater reduction in depressive symptoms.

The majority of people with MCI have progressive memory and cognitive impairment, and eventually are unable to function independently with daily tasks. Identification and then treatment of problems should come first, researchers said.