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Alzheimer's Disease

Psychosis in Alzheimer's Disease

Summary

This project aims to characterise the neuropsychological profile of psychosis in Alzheimer’s Disease and to establish whether there are differences between psychotic and non-psychotic patients on performance measures that are intimately associated with brain dopamine function, including attentional performance, motor speed and impulsivity.

Why carry out the research?

Psychotic symptoms, (delusions/hallucinations), occur in approximately 40-60% of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Delusions can manifest as paranoid thoughts and misidentifications whilst hallucinations are most commonly of the visual type. Such symptoms often occur early in the disease stage and their presence is associated with considerable morbidity, including a faster speed of cognitive decline and, where hallucinations are present, a higher mortality. 

Recent evidence suggests that brain dopamine function is intimately linked with psychotic symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s Disease -  similar to the findings in young psychotic people  - and also predicts specific aspects of cognitive and motor function. 

If the current study shows that performance on specific test measures is affected by the presence, degree of severity, or subtype of psychotic symptoms,  this would inform about the neurobiology of psychosis in Alzheimer’s Disease and could be used to develop a test battery to monitor the impact of antipsychotic drug treatment.

How is the research being undertaken?

One hundred participants with AD (50 psychotic, 50 non-psychotic) will be compared on a neuropsychological test battery that includes computerised and pen and paper measures. Carer- and clinician- rated scales of symptom severity will be used to determine the frequency and severity of psychotic symptoms (delusions and hallucinations).

Where is it happening?

Participants will be recruited from both the Dementia Case Register and memory clinic settings within the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM). The testing will take place at the participant’s home.

Who is involved?

Chloe Clark-Papasavas is carrying out the study as part of PhD (MRC DTG studentship).

Dr Suzanne Reeves, Dr Rebecca Gould and Professor Robert Howard are supervising the project.

What is the timescale?

Recruitment began in February 2011 and is now complete.  Our findings will be presented soon.

To find out more

Please contact:-

Dr Suzanne Reeves
Clinical Senior Lecturer
suzanne.j.reeves@kcl.ac.uk

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