Examining the Relationship Between Emotion and Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease

Emotion and Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease (EMOWRAP)

Lauren Gresham running test with participantMore than 5 million adults in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In addition to the cognitive complaints in Alzheimer’s, this population also experiences high rates of depression, anxiety, agitation, irritation and mood swings. Yet little is known about how emotions, such as the ability to regulate negative emotions, may be disrupted in Alzheimer’s. This study will increase our understanding of the role emotion plays in Alzheimer’s Disease by measuring emotional responses in people with a high-risk for developing the disease, which may illuminate new ways for increasing the emotional well-being of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Study Details

UW–Madison researchers from the Institute on Aging, the Center for Healthy Minds, and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center are collaborating on a study funded jointly by the National Institute on Aging and National Institute of Mental Health to examine how emotion may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Little is known about how emotional processes may be dysfunctional in AD, particularly during early stages of the disease, despite the fact that high rates of depression, anxiety, agitation, irritation and mood swings are reported in patients with AD.

An older man laughing and a woman smiling with him at a care facility.Previous research has even suggested that individuals with depression have a greater risk of developing AD, or that late-life depression may be an early manifestation of the disease. This project examines how both negative and positive emotional responses differ in intensity and across time in preclinical AD using both psychophysiological and neuroimaging measures of emotional responses. A goal is to learn how differences in emotion may relate to memory and cognition changes, as well as to amyloid and tau levels (the pathological proteins that build up in AD). We believe that learning how emotion is impacted as the AD pathology accumulates in the brain has the potential to both inform treatment and intervention development focused on emotional processes and increase our functional understanding of the brain circuitry underlying emotion.

Data collection on this study is now complete and the project is under analysis. Participants in this study came from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP). The goal of the WRAP is to understand the factors (emotional, biological, medical, environmental and lifestyle choices) that increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

For questions related to this study, please contact Principal Investigator Stacey M. Schaefer.

People Working on This Study

Stacey M. Schaefer, Study PI

Lauren Gresham, Study Research Program Manager

Sterling C. Johnson, Contributor