Individuals at-risk for Huntington disease (HD), both HD gene carriers and nongene carriers, were recruited to determine whether psychological changes are detectable among clinically presymptomatic individuals who carry the HD allele. Each participant underwent genotyping to determine HD gene carrier status and a clinical assessment that included a quantified neurological examination and an abbreviated Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI): the Hypochondriasis, Depression, Psychasthenia, Neuroticism, Cynical Hostility, and Irritability Scales and the Harris Subscales of Depression. The results of the MMPI were evaluated for differences between nongene carriers (NGC) (n = 363), presymptomatic gene carriers (PSGC) (n = 149), and those with manifest HD (MHD) (n = 26). The overall multiple analysis of variance was not significant, indicating that there was no overall difference among the three groups. However, when subscales of the MMPI were examined individually, participants with manifest HD scored higher on the Psychasthenia scale (MHD vs. PSGC, P = 0.005; MHD vs. NGC, P = 0.03) and the Harris Depression subscale, Brooding (MHD vs. PSGC, P=0.0005; MHD vs. NGC, P = 0.003). No significant correlation was found between the number of trinucleotide repeats on the disease-producing allele and any of the MMPI scales for the gene carriers, MHD or PSGC. These results verify the presence of psychological symptoms in the early phases of MHD but not in PSGC. Thus, further study of the behavioral and mood symptoms thought to accompany HD using measures designed specifically to detect depressive symptoms and changes in behavior specific to HD is warranted to delineate the timing of onset of the psychological symptoms.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.