By Dr. Maria Simbra

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Something common — that a lot of people have — could be an early predictor for dementia.

Carol Wiercinski, of Hermatige, found she wasn’t enjoying the things that she had before.

“I would just break out crying all the time,” the 71-year-old said. “And I thought, this isn’t right.”

It turns out, she has depression.

Because depression can foreshadow dementia, researchers at UPMC are conducting tests to check brain structure and function along with blood tests and physical and mental challenges. They are looking for 300 participants willing to make a two-year commitment to the study. Participants must be 60 and older, taking anti-depressants and show no signs of dementia. They also can’t have Parkinson’s disease or be bi-polar.

Wiercinski jumped at the opportunity to help.

“I didn’t even hesitate,” she said. “I thought, ‘no I want to help people if I can help people down the road.’”

The multi-center study is aimed at looking at the best treatments late in life, especially depression that is resistant to medicine. Fifty percent of older adults do not respond to first or second line treatment

“We’re trying to figure out what’s the next step for an older adult who doesn’t respond to a first or second line treatment with an antidepressant,” Dr. Jordan Karp of UPMC said.

Researchers are looking for predictors of trouble with memory, thinking, concentration and function. The goal is to find a way to predict dementia early so interventions can be started.

“People with depression at any point in their life, it can be in late life, or it can be earlier in life, are at double the risk of developing dementia when they become older,” Dr. Meryl Butters of UPMC said.

For more information about the study click here, or call 412-586-9851.

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