Previous studies have highlighted that decreased hippocampal volume, an early neural correlate of dementia, is commonly observed in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). However, it is unclear whether neurodegenerative and resultant clinical trajectories are accelerated in MCI patients with concomitant depressive symptoms, leading to a faster conversion to dementia stages than those who are not depressed. No longitudinal study has investigated whether depressed amnestic MCI (DEP+aMCI) patients show an earlier onset of progression to dementia than non-depressed amnestic MCI (DEP-aMCI) patients and whether progressive hippocampal volume reductions are related in the conversion process. Using data from Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, we examined 2-year follow-up data from 38 DEP+aMCI patients and 38 matched DEP-aMCI patients and compared their ages of conversion from aMCI to AD and trajectories of progressive hippocampal volume changes. DEP+ and DEP- patients were defined as having baseline Geriatric Depression Scale scores of 5 or above and 0, respectively. DEP+ converters showed earlier ages of conversion to dementia (p = 0.009) and greater left hippocampal volume loss than both DEP- converters and DEP+ non-converters over the 2-year period (p = 0.003, p = 0.001, respectively). These findings could not be explained by changes in total brain volume, differences in their clinical symptoms of dementia, daily functioning, or apolipoprotein E4 genotypes. No difference in conversion rate to dementia or progressive hippocampal volume change was found between DEP+ patients and DEP-patients, which suggested depressive symptoms themselves may not lead to progression of dementia from MCI. In conclusion, there is a synergistic effect of depressive symptoms and smaller left hippocampal volume in MCI patients that accelerates conversion to dementia.
Keywords: Dementia; depression; hippocampus; mild cognitive impairment.