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Loneliness, Cortical Amyloid Burden Linked

JAMA Psychiatry; ePub 2016 Nov 2; Donovan, et al

There’s a novel association of loneliness with cortical amyloid burden in cognitively normal older adults, according to a recent study, suggesting that loneliness is a neuropsychiatric symptom relevant to preclinical Alzheimer disease (AD). Researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis using data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study of 79 cognitively normal, community-dwelling participants. Participants included 43 women and 36 men with a mean (SD) age of 76.4 (6.2) years. They found:

  • 22 (28%) had positive apolipoprotein E ε4 (APOEε4) carrier status, and 25 (32%) were in the amyloid-positive group with cortical Pittsburgh Compound B-positron (PiB) distribution volume ratio greater than 1.2.
  • Controlling for age, sex, APOEε4, socioeconomic status, depression, anxiety, and social network, it was discovered that higher amyloid burden was significantly associated with greater loneliness.
  • Compared with individuals in the amyloid-negative group, those in the amyloid-positive group were 7.5-fold more likely to be classified as lonely than nonlonely.
  • Furthermore, the association of high amyloid burden and loneliness was stronger in APOEε4 carriers than in noncarriers.


Donovan NJ, Okereke OI, Vannini P, et al. Association of higher cortical amyloid burden with loneliness in cognitively normal older adults. [Published online ahead of print November 2, 2016]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2657.