Depressive symptom severity is related to poorer cognitive performance in prodromal Huntington disease

Megan M Smith, James A Mills, Eric A Epping, Holly J Westervelt, Jane S Paulsen, PREDICT-HD Investigators of the Huntington Study Group, Zofia Miedzybrodzka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Depression is associated with more severe cognitive deficits in many neurological disorders, though the investigation of this relationship in Huntington disease (HD) has been limited. This study examined the relationship between depressive symptom severity and measures of executive functioning, learning/memory, and attention in prodromal HD.

METHOD: Participants (814 prodromal HD, 230 gene-negative) completed a neuropsychological test battery and the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). Based on the BDI-II, there were 637 participants with minimal depression, 89 with mild depression, 61 with moderate depression, and 27 with severe depression in the prodromal HD group.

RESULTS: ANCOVA (controlling for age, sex, and education) revealed that performance on SDMT, Trails B, Hopkins Verbal Learning Test--Revised (HVLT-R) Immediate Recall, and Stroop interference was significantly different between the BDI-II severity groups, with the moderate and severe groups performing worse than the minimal and mild groups. There were no significant differences between the BDI-II severity groups for Trails A or HVLT-R Delayed Recall. Linear regression revealed that both gene status and depression severity were significant predictors of performance on all cognitive tests examined, with contributions of BDI-II and gene status comparable for Trails A, SDMT, and Stroop interference. Gene status had a higher contribution for HVLT-R Immediate and Delayed Recall and Trails B.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that depressive symptom severity is related to poorer cognitive performance in individuals with prodromal HD. Though there are currently no approved therapies for cognitive impairment in HD, our findings suggest that depression may be a treatable contributor to cognitive impairment in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-669
Number of pages6
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • adult
  • affect
  • attention
  • cognition
  • data interpretation, statistical
  • depressive disorder
  • executive function
  • female
  • humans
  • Huntington disease
  • learning
  • longitudinal Studies
  • male
  • memory
  • mental recall
  • middle aged
  • neuropsychological tests
  • prospective studies
  • psychiatric status rating scales
  • stroop test
  • verbal learning


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