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Older-age bipolar disorder (OABD), which has been defined as the occurrence of bipolar disorder in individuals who are aged 60 years or older  represents as much as one-quarter of the population with bipolar disorder. In spite of the early mortality that is known to occur among individuals with bipolar disorder , the absolute numbers of individuals with mental health conditions such as OABD are expected to increase in upcoming years. Given these global demographic changes and emerging evidence base, there has been growing interest in OABD. However, complicating the study and characterisation of OABD, there is substantial variability in clinical expression, such as early onset versus late onset illness with a potentially different pathogenesis, clinical course and care needs. A hierarchical terminology for OABD that considers age of onset and course of illness has been proposed by the International Society for Bipolar Disorders Task Force on Older-Age Bipolar Disorder .
A late onset frontal lobe syndrome (LOF) refers to a clinical syndrome with apathy, disinhibition, or stereotypical behavior arising in middle or late adulthood. Diagnostics are challenging, and both clinicians and patients need reliable predictors of progression to improve clinical guidance. In this longitudinal multicenter and genetically screened prospective study, 137 LOF patients with frontal behavior (FBI score≥11) and/or stereotypical behavior (SRI≥10) were included. Progression was defined as institutionalization, death, or progression of frontal or temporal atrophy at magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after two years of follow up. Absence of progression at MRI in addition to stable or improved Mini Mental State Examination and Frontal Assessment Battery scores after two years was indicative for non-progression. The presence of stereotypy and a neuropsychological profile with executive deficits at baseline were found to be predictive for progression, while a history and family history with psychiatric disorders were predictors for non-progression. The combination of these clinical markers had a predictive value of 80.4% (p < 0.05). In patients presenting with late onset behavioral symptoms, an appraisal of the rate of deterioration can be made by detailed mapping of clinical symptoms. Distinction of progressive discourses from non-progressive or treatable conditions is to be gained.
Lithium remains a first-line treatment for bipolar disorder, but clinicians have considerable concern over potential adverse effects, especially in older adults. Older patients’ attitude towards lithium has not been investigated, even though negative attitudes are closely associated with reduced adherence. We examine the attitude towards lithium pharmacotherapy in older adults with bipolar disorder.
In a cross-sectional study of 78 patients aged >60 years with bipolar disorder, the association between lithium use and attitudes towards psychotropic pharmacotherapy was assessed using the Drug Attitude Inventory (DAI-10), including multivariate analyses.
Compared to patients using alternative psychopharmacological treatments (n =30), lithium users (n=48) showed higher self-reported contentedness, subjective somatic health, and social functioning scores. Although 58.7% of lithium users reported severe adverse effects, lithium users had more positive attitudes towards psychotropic pharmacotherapy compared to non-users (DAI-10 mean score 6.0 vs. 3.9, p =0.01), and this effect was independent of potential confounders.
Older bipolar patients using lithium have a more positive attitude towards psychotropic pharmacotherapy, despite high rates of adverse effects. Future longitudinal studies could investigate whether positive medication attitudes lead to improved treatment adherence and reduced bipolar disorder relapse in older lithium users.
Depression and cognitive decline are highly prevalent in older persons and both are associated with low serum brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Mutual pathways of depression and cognitive decline in older persons may explain the overlap in symptoms and low serum BDNF. We hypothesized that serum BDNF levels are lower in depressed elderly with poor cognitive performance (global or specifically in working memory, speed of information processing, and episodic memory) compared to depressed elderly without cognitive impairment or non-depressed controls.
BDNF Serum levels and cognitive functioning were examined in 378 depressed persons and 132 non-depressed controls from a large prospective study on late-life depression. The association between BDNF levels and each cognitive domain among the depressed patients was tested by four separate linear regression models adjusted for relevant covariates. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed to compare BDNF serum levels in three groups (depression with cognitive impairment, depression without cognitive impairment, and non-depressed controls), when adjusted for potential confounders.
No significant linear association was found between BDNF and any of the four cognitive domains tested. There are no differences in BDNF levels between controls and depressed patients with or without cognitive impairment global or in specific domains after controlling for confounders.
BDNF serum levels in this cohort of older depressed patients and controls are not related to cognitive functioning. As BDNF is essential for the survival and functioning of neurons, its levels may remain normal in stages of disease where remission is achievable.
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