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Imaging technique IDs plaques, tangles in brains of severely depressed older adults
Date:11/8/2011

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the elderly, but little is known about the underlying biology of its development in older adults.

In a small study published in the November issue of the peer-reviewed journal Archives of General Psychiatry, UCLA researchers used a unique brain scan to assess the levels of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in older adults with a type of severe depression called major depressive disorder (MDD).

Previous research has suggested that plaque and tangle deposits in the brain -- hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease and many dementias -- are associated not only with memory loss but also with mild symptoms of depression and anxiety in middle-aged and older individuals. The team wanted to see what the brain-scanning technique developed at UCLA would find in older people with MDD.

UCLA researchers have created a chemical marker called FDDNP that binds to both plaque and tangle deposits, which can then be viewed through a positron emission tomography (PET) brain scan, providing a "window into the brain." Using this method, researchers are able to pinpoint where in the brain these abnormal protein deposits are accumulating.

Researchers compared the FDDNP brain scans of 20 older adults between ages 60 to 82 who had been diagnosed with MDD with the scans of 19 healthy controls of similar age, education and gender.

They found that in patients with MDD, FDDNP binding was significantly higher throughout the brain and in critical brain regions, including the posterior cingulate and lateral temporal areas, that are involved in decision-making, complex reasoning, memory and emotions.

"This is the first study using FDDNP to assess the abnormal protein levels in brains of older adults with severe depression," said the study's senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neu
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Contact: Rachel Champeau
rchampeau@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2270
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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