COVID-19 impacting mental health of seniors
Depression is often described as a chemical imbalance in the brain and, of course, mental health affects people of all ages. The issue with mental health is that often there is no cure, simply just ways to better manage the symptoms.
Geriatric depression is also slightly different from depression in younger people because a trend toward depressive moods is more common with older age. Mixing that with the cognitive decline in the brain is one of the main reasons seniors in senior living facilities are prescribed some sort of antidepressant.
COVID-19 has not helped anyone with their moods at all. Many people have been cooped up inside their homes for months with no human interaction. But for some senior citizens, they don’t get many visitors as it is, especially if they’re living far away from kids and family.
Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry has come up with a program of neuroplasticity-based brain exercises. These exercises can improve cognitive deficits and address depression.
“These study results seem particularly relevant at a time when a record number of seniors are being asked to maintain social distance, which we know is not good for mood, nor for cognitive performance,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science. “This study joins a half-dozen prior studies in showing that neuroplasticity-based brain exercises can improve mood and address depressive symptoms.”
This double-blind study was led by researchers at the Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry and enrolled 36 patients, age 60-89, with major depressive disorder, who had failed to achieve remission after at least eight weeks of treatment with anti-depressive drugs. Participants were randomized into a neuroplasticity-based brain exercise intervention group or into an active control group engaged in computerized education with equivalent time demands and support. Each group was asked to complete 30 hours of their activity within 4-5 weeks. The results were published this week in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The researchers found that 58 percent of the treatment-resistant patients in the brain exercise group showed remission in depression as compared to eight percent in the control group.
“We’ve come to recognize the role of brain chemistry and brain plasticity in depression,” Dr. Mahncke noted. “These exercises are designed to stimulate the neuro-modulatory systems that naturally control mood. The exercises are attentionally demanding and filled with novelty and rewards in an effort to stimulate the production of acetylcholine, norepinephrine and dopamine, which help with brain plasticity, learning, and mood.”