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Behavioral Changes May Signal Early Stages of Alzheimer’s

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, found a link between mild behavioral impairment (MBI) and biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in elderly subjects.

MBI is defined as the late-life onset of behavioral changes in five domains:  interest, motivation, and drive; mood or anxiety symptoms; control over behavior and impulses; social graces, tact, and empathy; and thoughts and perception.

“We found that the presence and severity of MBI in these cognitively healthy individuals was strongly associated with the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain, which is one of the first pathological changes in early stages of Alzheimer’s,” said researcher Firoza Lussier, a master’s student in McGill’s Integrated Program in Neuroscience.

The findings are published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

In recent years, researchers have conducted more than 100 clinical trials in the hopes of finding new indicators able to flag the onset of Alzheimer’s disease before the appearance of clinical symptoms, such as memory loss. While MBI had already been suggested to be an indicator, its role had not yet been confirmed.

In the new paper, the researchers show that MBI may very well offer important clues about the early stages of dementia.

In order to verify MBI’s link to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the research team used imaging techniques to measure amyloid plaque deposits — a protein at the core of Alzheimer’s disease — in the brains of nearly 100 cognitively healthy elderly individuals with varying degrees of MBI from the Translational Biomarkers in Aging and Dementia (TRIAD) cohort.

“The unique design of the McGill TRIAD cohort allows young scientists like Firoza to discover the impact of diseases in which specific proteins have become abnormal on human behavior,” said Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto, director of the McGill University Research Centre for Studies in Aging.

It has been noted that MBI could potentially serve as an interesting proxy for clinicians to identify Alzheimer’s disease before the manifestation of symptoms. This could be done with the help of the Mild Behavioural Impairment Checklist (MBI-C), an instrument used to codify mental disorder symptoms attributable to diseases of the nervous system in pre-dementia populations.

“This is an important study because it may help identify people who are at a higher risk of progression of Alzheimer’s disease by employing a user-friendly clinical scale developed in Canada by Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, and already available world-wide,” said Dr. Serge Gauthier, director of the Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders Research Unit.

Lussier and her colleagues now hope to conduct more imaging studies to confirm whether MBI is predictive of changes in Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition marked by progressive memory loss and a decline in activities of daily living. The condition affects more than 5.4 million people in the U.S., with an individual developing AD every 67 seconds.

Source: McGill University

Behavioral Changes May Signal Early Stages of Alzheimer’s

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Behavioral Changes May Signal Early Stages of Alzheimer’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Apr 2020 (Originally: 11 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Apr 2020
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