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Loneliness in cognitively normal older adults may actually be an early manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research based on data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study.

Loneliness may be associated with significant amyloid deposits, “suggesting that loneliness is a neuropsychiatric symptom relevant to preclinical Alzheimer’s disease,” reports MedPage Today.

People who were classified as amyloid-positive were 75 times more likely to identify themselves as lonely sometimes or often than those who were amyloid-negative.

The link between higher amyloid levels and loneliness was stronger in older adults who carry a gene with a high Alzheimer’s disease risk factor than those without that gene. “Loneliness, characterized by subtle feelings of social detachment, may be associated with early brain changes in preclinical Alzheimer disease, prior to mild cognitive impairment,” write the researchers.

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