In old age, lack of emotion signals your brain’s shrinking?

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A new study shows older people who have apathy, but not depression, may have smaller brain volumes than those without apathy.

For the study, more than 4,000 people with an average age of 76 underwent an MRI scan. They were asked questions that measure apathy symptoms like lack of interest, lack of emotion, dropping activities, preferring to stay home, and lack of energy.

The study found people with two or more apathy symptoms had 1.4 percent smaller gray matter volume and 1.6 percent less white matter volume, compared to those who had less than two symptoms.

“The fact that participants in our study had apathy without depression should turn our attention to how apathy alone could indicate brain disease,” Lenore J. Launer, PhD, with the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, was quoted as saying. “If these findings are confirmed, identifying people with apathy earlier may be one way to target an at-risk group.”

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