It seems like a simple research question, but researchers are wanting to find out if changes in personality occur before the onset of mild cognitive impairment or clinical dementia?
Simple in theory, but not necessarily easy to answer.
In their study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers from Florida State University analysed the medical records of 2046 older adults who volunteered to participate in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.
Participants had been providing personality and clinical assessments from 1980 through to 2016. During this period, mild cognitive impairment was diagnosed in 104 participants and dementia was diagnosed in 255 participants, of which 194 was Alzheimer’s disease.
After the researchers undertook their analysis, they found no evidence for preclinical change in personality before the onset of mild cognitive impairment or dementia was identified.
“We further found that personality remained stable even within the last few years before the onset of mild cognitive impairment,” said Associate Professor Antonio Terracciano who led the study analysis.
What does this all mean? In short, personality change did not significantly differ in those who did or didn’t develop dementia, and as such on its own cannot be considered an early sign of dementia.
However, as this result was based on self-rated analysis of personality change, the researchers do still suggest that if you notice significant changes in an individual’s personality, particularly personality traits, that you should consult a health professional for advice.
You can read the full study here
My mother died at 90 years but with the benefit of hindsight she showed the first signs of dementia at 62 years. She allowed my father to do more and more things she normally did and had one or two very aggressive outbursts early. Both my parents knew mummy had dementia and daddy did his best to cover it all up. When it was so obvious she needed help they blocked all avenues my sister and I tried to implement. It was a long and difficult journey but one absolute indicator of Alzheimer's is that 1000 yard look in the eye sort of focused on your forehead or the distance as though you are not in the way. The sad thing is that in there is that person who will respond to sights, sounds, tastes and smells that please them. We just need to know what they are and discover them before they withdraw.