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The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing guidelines and restrictions brought on changes in the everyday experiences of older adults. It is not clear, however, to what extent the pandemic has impacted the importance of everyday preferences for persons with cognitive impairment (CI) or the proxy ratings of those preferences. The sample of this study included 27 dyads of persons with CI and their care partners. The Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory was used to assess importance of preferences among persons with CI; care partners completed concurrent proxy assessments. Mixed random and fixed effects longitudinal models were used to evaluate changes in ratings and concordance levels between persons with CI and care partners prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Persons with CI rated autonomous choice preferences as significantly more important during the COVID-19 pandemic than before; there was no association between the COVID-19 pandemic and change in other everyday preferences domains or discrepancy in proxy assessments of everyday preferences. Identifying avenues to support and provide for autonomy in the decision-making of older adults with CI may offer a way forward in mitigating the psychological and behavioral impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in this population.
A growing volume of research suggests that religion protects against late-life suicide, but it remains unclear whether effects are relevant to clinical samples, which facets of religion are most relevant, and variations over the course of mood disorders (e.g. during periods of euthymia, depression, and/or heightened suicidality).
Eighty adults aged 55–85 years with mood disorders completed assessments of religion (affiliation, service attendance, importance of religion, belief and faith in God), depression, and suicidality over time (M = 7.31 measurements over M = 727 days). We computed metrics to identify mean and maximum levels of depression and suicidality, and the number of episodes of significant depression and suicidality experienced by each participant.
Religious affiliation and importance of religion, but not service attendance, belief, or faith in God, were associated with lower mean and maximum depression. Conversely, all facets of religion predicted significantly lower mean and maximum levels of suicidality (rs ranging from −0.24 to −0.39), and substantially less likelihood of experiencing significant suicidality during the study (ORs ranging from 0.19 to 0.33). Service attendance, belief, and faith in God predicted less suicidality even among individuals who did not affiliate with a religious group.
Religious factors, particularly faith in God, are associated with substantially less suicidality over time among older adults with mood disorders, irrespective of religious affiliation.
Agitation is experienced by over 90% of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) which increases morbidity and mortality and contribute to caregiver burden. There are no FDA-approved treatments for severe agitation in people with advanced dementia. Behavioral interventions are first-line management strategies but are not effective in the most severely agitated patients. Off-label use of psychotropic medications have limited efficacy and risk for adverse effects. New management strategies for severe agitation in AD refractory to psychopharmacologic and behavioral interventions are timely and warranted. Preliminary studies provide evidence for the safety and efficacy of acute electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in reducing agitation in this population.
The ECT-AD study is a multi-site NIH-funded randomized single-blind randomized controlled trial to investigate the safety and efficacy of ECT in severe and treatment refractory agitation and aggression in AD. In a vulnerable population with advanced dementia and lack of capacity to provide informed consent, there are ethical and consent issues that need to be considered. In this presentation, we will describe the human research subject aspects of working with this population, the process of informed consent and variation of state laws, and efforts to ensure participant safety and minimize undue influence or coercion.
Agitation is a common complication of Alzheimer’s dementia (Agit-AD) associated with substantial morbidity, high healthcare service utilization, and adverse emotional and physical impact on care partners. There are currently no FDA-approved pharmacological treatments for Agit-AD. We present the study design and baseline data for an ongoing multisite, three-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial of dronabinol (synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]), titrated to a dose of 10 mg daily, in 80 participants to examine the safety and efficacy of dronabinol as an adjunctive treatment for Agit-AD. Preliminary findings for 44 participants enrolled thus far show a predominately female, white sample with advanced cognitive impairment (Mini Mental Status Examination mean 7.8) and agitation (Neuropsychiatric Inventory-Clinician Agitation subscale mean 14.1). Adjustments to study design in light of the COVID-19 pandemic are described. Findings from this study will provide guidance for the clinical utility of dronabinol for Agit-AD. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02792257.
Cognitive disorders in the DSM-IV-TR included delirium, dementia, amnestic disorder, and cognitive disorders not otherwise specified. DSM-V retains the diagnosis of delirium and introduces the term neurocognitive disorder (NCD), dividing NCDs into major NCD or mild NCD and unspecified NCD. The diagnostic category of major NCD encompasses syndromes that were previously categorized as dementia and amnestic disorder. Memory loss is no longer an essential criterion for major NCD in DSM-V as it was for dementia in DSM-IV-TR. Major NCD also includes progressive neurodegenerative dementias, as well as static cognitive disorders that are not expected to worsen over time. The term dementia is retained in DSM-V because of familiarity of the term to the public and medical practitioners.
Pharmacogenomic testing has emerged to aid medication selection for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) by identifying potential gene-drug interactions (GDI). Many pharmacogenomic tests are available with varying levels of supporting evidence, including direct-to-consumer and physician-ordered tests. We retrospectively evaluated the safety of using a physician-ordered combinatorial pharmacogenomic test (GeneSight) to guide medication selection for patients with MDD in a large, randomized, controlled trial (GUIDED).
Materials and Methods
Patients diagnosed with MDD who had an inadequate response to ≥1 psychotropic medication were randomized to treatment as usual (TAU) or combinatorial pharmacogenomic test-guided care (guided-care). All received combinatorial pharmacogenomic testing and medications were categorized by predicted GDI (no, moderate, or significant GDI). Patients and raters were blinded to study arm, and physicians were blinded to test results for patients in TAU, through week 8. Measures included adverse events (AEs, present/absent), worsening suicidal ideation (increase of ≥1 on the corresponding HAM-D17 question), or symptom worsening (HAM-D17 increase of ≥1). These measures were evaluated based on medication changes [add only, drop only, switch (add and drop), any, and none] and study arm, as well as baseline medication GDI.
Most patients had a medication change between baseline and week 8 (938/1,166; 80.5%), including 269 (23.1%) who added only, 80 (6.9%) who dropped only, and 589 (50.5%) who switched medications. In the full cohort, changing medications resulted in an increased relative risk (RR) of experiencing AEs at both week 4 and 8 [RR 2.00 (95% CI 1.41–2.83) and RR 2.25 (95% CI 1.39–3.65), respectively]. This was true regardless of arm, with no significant difference observed between guided-care and TAU, though the RRs for guided-care were lower than for TAU. Medication change was not associated with increased suicidal ideation or symptom worsening, regardless of study arm or type of medication change. Special attention was focused on patients who entered the study taking medications identified by pharmacogenomic testing as likely having significant GDI; those who were only taking medications subject to no or moderate GDI at week 8 were significantly less likely to experience AEs than those who were still taking at least one medication subject to significant GDI (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.15–0.99, p=0.048). No other significant differences in risk were observed at week 8.
These data indicate that patient safety in the combinatorial pharmacogenomic test-guided care arm was no worse than TAU in the GUIDED trial. Moreover, combinatorial pharmacogenomic-guided medication selection may reduce some safety concerns. Collectively, these data demonstrate that combinatorial pharmacogenomic testing can be adopted safely into clinical practice without risking symptom degradation among patients.
Virtual reality (VR) is a promising tool with the potential to enhance care of cognitive and affective disorders in the aging population. VR has been implemented in clinical settings with adolescents and children; however, it has been less studied in the geriatric population.
The objective of this study is to determine the existing levels of evidence for VR use in clinical settings and identify areas where more evidence may guide translation of existing VR interventions for older adults.
Design and measurements:
We conducted a systematic review in PubMed and Web of Science in November 2019 for peer-reviewed journal articles on VR technology and its applications in older adults. We reviewed article content and extracted the number of study participants, study population, goal of the investigation, the level of evidence, and categorized articles based on the indication of the VR technology and the study population.
The database search yielded 1554 total results, and 55 articles were included in the final synthesis. The most represented study design was cross-sectional, and the most common study population was subjects with cognitive impairment. Articles fell into three categories for VR Indication: Testing, Training, and Screening. There was a wide variety of VR environments used across studies.
Existing evidence offers support for VR as a screening and training tool for cognitive impairment in older adults. VR-based tasks demonstrated validity comparable to some paper-based assessments of cognition, though more work is needed to refine diagnostic specificity. The variety of VR environments used shows a need for standardization before comparisons can be made across VR simulations. Future studies should address key issues such as usability, data privacy, and confidentiality. Since most literature was generated from high-income countries (HICs), it remains unclear how this may be translated to other parts of the world.
Among older people with cognitive impairment and mild dementia, relatively little is known about the factors that predict preferences for everyday living activities and experiences and that influence the relative importance of those activities and experiences.
Participants were recruited from the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (MADRC) Clinical Core longitudinal cohort.
The sample included 62 community-dwelling older adults with cognitive impairment (Clinical Dementia Rating global score ≥ 0.5).
We used the Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory (PELI) to assess preferences for activities and lifestyle experiences among persons with cognitive impairment. Within-subjects analysis of variance was used to test for significant differences in the mean ratings of importance for four domains of the PELI (“autonomous choice,” “social engagement,” “personal growth,” and “keeping a routine”). Multiple regression models were used to relate predictors, including neuropsychiatric symptoms, to importance ratings for each domain.
Significant differences were noted in the mean importance ratings of the preferences domains: “social engagement” preferences were rated as most important, followed by “autonomous choice,” “personal growth,” and “keeping a routine.” For the “social engagement” preferences domain, female sex was significantly associated with higher importance of “social engagement,” while depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale-15 scores) were significantly associated with lower importance.
This study adds novel insight into the everyday preferences of community-dwelling older adults with cognitive impairment and highlights the impact of a number of factors, particularly level of depression, on how important various everyday experiences are perceived.
The Genomics Used to Improve DEpresssion Decisions (GUIDED) trial assessed outcomes associated with combinatorial pharmacogenomic (PGx) testing in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Analyses used the 17-item Hamilton Depression (HAM-D17) rating scale; however, studies demonstrate that the abbreviated, core depression symptom-focused, HAM-D6 rating scale may have greater sensitivity toward detecting differences between treatment and placebo. However, the sensitivity of HAM-D6 has not been tested for two active treatment arms. Here, we evaluated the sensitivity of the HAM-D6 scale, relative to the HAM-D17 scale, when assessing outcomes for actively treated patients in the GUIDED trial.
Outpatients (N=1,298) diagnosed with MDD and an inadequate treatment response to >1 psychotropic medication were randomized into treatment as usual (TAU) or combinatorial PGx-guided (guided-care) arms. Combinatorial PGx testing was performed on all patients, though test reports were only available to the guided-care arm. All patients and raters were blinded to study arm until after week 8. Medications on the combinatorial PGx test report were categorized based on the level of predicted gene-drug interactions: ‘use as directed’, ‘moderate gene-drug interactions’, or ‘significant gene-drug interactions.’ Patient outcomes were assessed by arm at week 8 using HAM-D6 and HAM-D17 rating scales, including symptom improvement (percent change in scale), response (≥50% decrease in scale), and remission (HAM-D6 ≤4 and HAM-D17 ≤7).
At week 8, the guided-care arm demonstrated statistically significant symptom improvement over TAU using HAM-D6 scale (Δ=4.4%, p=0.023), but not using the HAM-D17 scale (Δ=3.2%, p=0.069). The response rate increased significantly for guided-care compared with TAU using both HAM-D6 (Δ=7.0%, p=0.004) and HAM-D17 (Δ=6.3%, p=0.007). Remission rates were also significantly greater for guided-care versus TAU using both scales (HAM-D6 Δ=4.6%, p=0.031; HAM-D17 Δ=5.5%, p=0.005). Patients taking medication(s) predicted to have gene-drug interactions at baseline showed further increased benefit over TAU at week 8 using HAM-D6 for symptom improvement (Δ=7.3%, p=0.004) response (Δ=10.0%, p=0.001) and remission (Δ=7.9%, p=0.005). Comparatively, the magnitude of the differences in outcomes between arms at week 8 was lower using HAM-D17 (symptom improvement Δ=5.0%, p=0.029; response Δ=8.0%, p=0.008; remission Δ=7.5%, p=0.003).
Combinatorial PGx-guided care achieved significantly better patient outcomes compared with TAU when assessed using the HAM-D6 scale. These findings suggest that the HAM-D6 scale is better suited than is the HAM-D17 for evaluating change in randomized, controlled trials comparing active treatment arms.
Cognitive impairments are directly related to severity of symptoms and are a primary cause for functional impairment. Intraindividual cognitive variability likely plays a role in both risk and resiliency from symptoms. In fact, such cognitive variability may be an earlier marker of cognitive decline and emergent psychiatric symptoms than traditional psychiatric or behavioral symptoms. Here, our objectives were to survey the literature linking intraindividual cognitive variability, trauma, and dementia and to suggest a potential research agenda.
A wide body of literature suggests that exposure to major stressors is associated with poorer cognitive performance, with intraindividual cognitive variability in particular linked to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of severe trauma.
In this narrative review, we survey the empirical studies to date that evaluate the connection between intraindividual cognitive variability, PTSD, and pathological aging including dementia.
The literature suggests that reaction time (RT) variability within an individual may predict future cognitive impairment, including premature cognitive aging, and is significantly associated with PTSD symptoms.
Based on our findings, we argue that intraindividual RT variability may serve as a common pathological indicator for trauma-related dementia risk and should be investigated in future studies.
We suggest that the inclusion of anxiety, as one relevant mood factor, could enhance the implementation of the integrative memory model in research and the clinic. The role of anxiety in Alzheimer's disease neuroanatomy, symptomology, and progression is used as an example. Customization of the integrative memory model can establish strong foundations for pathology-specific models of memory deficits, enhancing the development of precision medicine applications.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disease burden worldwide, with lifetime prevalence in the United States of 17%. Here we present the results of the first prospective, large-scale, patient- and rater-blind, randomized controlled trial evaluating the clinical importance of achieving congruence between combinatorial pharmacogenomic (PGx) testing and medication selection for MDD.
1,167 outpatients diagnosed with MDD and an inadequate response to ≥1 psychotropic medications were enrolled and randomized 1:1 to a Treatment as Usual (TAU) arm or PGx-guided care arm. Combinatorial PGx testing categorized medications in three groups based on the level of gene-drug interactions: use as directed, use with caution, or use with increased caution and more frequent monitoring. Patient assessments were performed at weeks 0 (baseline), 4, 8, 12 and 24. Patients, site raters, and central raters were blinded in both arms until after week 8. In the guided-care arm, physicians had access to the combinatorial PGx test result to guide medication selection. Primary outcomes utilized the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D17) and included symptom improvement (percent change in HAM-D17 from baseline), response (50% decrease in HAM-D17 from baseline), and remission (HAM-D17<7) at the fully blinded week 8 time point. The durability of patient outcomes was assessed at week 24. Medications were considered congruent with PGx test results if they were in the ‘use as directed’ or ‘use with caution’ report categories while medications in the ‘use with increased caution and more frequent monitoring’ were considered incongruent. Patients who started on incongruent medications were analyzed separately according to whether they changed to congruent medications by week8.
At week 8, symptom improvement for individuals in the guided-care arm was not significantly different than TAU (27.2% versus 24.4%, p=0.11). However, individuals in the guided-care arm were more likely than those in TAU to achieve remission (15% versus 10%; p<0.01) and response (26% versus 20%; p=0.01). Remission rates, response rates, and symptom reductions continued to improve in the guided-treatment arm until the 24week time point. Congruent prescribing increased to 91% in the guided-care arm by week 8. Among patients who were taking one or more incongruent medication at baseline, those who changed to congruent medications by week 8 demonstrated significantly greater symptom improvement (p<0.01), response (p=0.04), and remission rates (p<0.01) compared to those who persisted on incongruent medications.
Combinatorial PGx testing improves short- and long-term response and remission rates for MDD compared to standard of care. In addition, prescribing congruency with PGx-guided medication recommendations is important for achieving symptom improvement, response, and remission for MDD patients.
Funding Acknowledgements: This study was supported by Assurex Health, Inc.
Agitation in patients with dementia increases caretaker burden, increases healthcare costs, and worsens the patient's quality of life. Antipsychotic medications, commonly used for the treatment of agitation in patients with dementia have a box warning from the FDA for elevated mortality risk. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has made significant advances over the past several years, and is efficacious in treating a wide range of psychiatric conditions. We provide a systematic review of published literature regarding the efficacy of ECT for the treatment of agitation in patients with dementia (major neurocognitive disorder).
We searched PubMed, Medline, Google Scholar, UptoDate, Embase, and Cochrane for literature concerning ECT for treating agitation in dementia using the title search terms “ECT agitation dementia;” “ECT aggression dementia;” “ECT Behavior and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia;” and “ECT BPSD.” The term “dementia” was also interchanged with “Major Neurocognitive Disorder.” No time frame restriction was placed. We attempted to include all publications that were found to ensure a comprehensive review. We found 11 papers, with a total (N) of 216 patients.
Limited to case reports, case series, retrospective chart review, retrospective case-control, and an open label prospective study, ECT has demonstrated promising results in decreasing agitation in patients with dementia. Patients who relapsed were found to benefit from maintenance ECT.
Available studies are often limited by concomitant psychotropic medications, inconsistent use of objective rating scales, short follow-up, lack of a control group, small sample sizes, and publication bias. A future randomized controlled trial will pose ethical and methodological challenges. A randomized controlled trial must carefully consider the definition of usual care as a comparison group. Well-documented prospective studies and/or additional case series with explicit selection criteria, a wide range of outcome measures, and less selection bias of the study sample that may favor treatment response, is warranted. ECT may be a promising option for the treatment of aggression and agitation in patients with severe dementia who are refractory to other treatment options, but the limitations of available studies suggest that a cautious approach to future randomized controlled trials is warranted.