Do adults with ADHD have a higher risk of dementia? According to a recent study, they could.
Researchers recently found an association between adult ADHD and a form of dementia called dementia with lewy bodies. Lewy body dementia is second only to Alzheimer’s disease as the most common form of dementia in older people, although diagnosis is more challenging because it resembles other forms of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
In a study published in the European Journal of Neurology, researchers made the surprising discovery that almost half of all adults diagnosed with dementia with lewy bodies had previously been diagnosed with ADHD.
Lewy body dementia is a neurological disease distinguished by abnormal protein clumps called lewy bodies in the brain. The symptoms closely resemble those of both Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia. A person with lewy body dementia can suffer from a variety of cognitive issues, repeated falls, movement problems, delusions, hallucinations and other psychiatric disturbances. Like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, dementia with lewy bodies is a progressive disease.
Researchers believe the two conditions involve similar changes in neurotransmitter pathways. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that act as messengers within the nervous system. They play a role in movement, mood, learning and motivation, among other functions.
Both ADHD and lewy body dementia involve changes in two neurotransmitters, dopamine and acetylcholine. These neurotransmitters in the central nervous system are important for regulating thoughts, memory, attention, movement and the motivation to get things done.
Although the exact changes in neurotransmitter pathways aren’t completely understood, researchers speculate that the two conditions share common origins and features, and adult ADHD may develop into lewy body dementia as a person enters their twilight years.
Keep in mind that this research is only in its early stages. This is the first study to show that adult ADHD may be linked with lewy body dementia. Hopefully, researchers will get a better understanding of the neurotransmitter pathways involved in these two conditions so better treatments can be found for both diseases.