One Neurological Disorder Can Trigger Another

One Neurological Disorder Can Trigger Another

May 10, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

People living with neurological or psychiatric conditions may have an increased likelihood of having a second such condition in the future, and their sex influences their risk, according to new research.

This University of Waterloo’s study is Ontario’s largest, both in population size and length of time studied, and was also the first to examine the effect that being a man or woman has on the relationship between conditions.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Science conducted the work with funding from the Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI).

Understanding current disorders to provide proactive care

“Globally, neurological and psychiatric disorders are leading causes of disability and death,” said Colleen Maxwell, a professor at the School of Pharmacy at Waterloo and lead author on the study.

“Understanding which disorders or conditions are risk factors for, or early manifestations of, later disorders will help health-care providers and family provide proactive care for individuals living with these conditions.”

Associations between neurological and psychiatric disorders

Maxwell and the study collaborators used provincial health databases to analyse data from more than five million Ontario residents aged 40 to 85 years.

Over the course of 14 years, they examined the associations between pairs of particularly common neurological conditions — such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke — and psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.

What are Neurological disorders?

Neurological disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system. In other words, the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction, and muscles.

These disorders include epilepsy, Alzheimer disease and other dementias, cerebrovascular diseases including stroke, migraine and other headache disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, neuroinfections, brain tumours, traumatic disorders of the nervous system due to head trauma, and neurological disorders as a result of malnutrition.

What are Psychiatric disorders?

A mental disorder is characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour.  It is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.

There are many different types of mental disorders.  Mental disorders may also be referred to as mental health conditions.

The latter is a broader term covering mental disorders, psychosocial disabilities and (other) mental states associated with significant distress, impairment in functioning, or risk of self-harm.

This may include anxiety, drepression, bipolar disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, eating disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders.

The research explored the link between these conditions in both directions, including investigating how the experience of previous stroke related to future risk of dementia and vice versa.

The rate for developing second condition increases

In almost all cases, the researchers found that the rate of developing a second condition increased. For example, individuals with prior Parkinson’s disease had four times the rate of developing dementia, while those with prior stroke had more than double the rate of developing dementia.

They also found that having a psychiatric disorder previously was associated with an increased rate of experiencing dementia later. For some conditions, the risk of developing the second disorder remained for 10 years or more after the first.

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Men and women differ in developing risk

The team showed that women and men differed in their risk for developing a later condition after experiencing an earlier one.

For example, comparing men and women who experienced an earlier stroke, women were more likely than their male counterparts to develop dementia later.

The researchers hope their work can inform not just the care that individuals with these conditions receive directly, but also the planning of the health system as a whole.

“We also hope to provide information for those designing medical, educational programs to ensure health-care providers are informed of and equipped to address these common comorbidities,” Maxwell said.

The ONDRI supported the research through the Ontario Brain Institute. The study was recently published in the journal Age and Aging.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Waterloo; www.; Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Colleen J Maxwell, Laura C Maclagan, Daniel A Harris, Xuesong Wang, Jun Guan, Ruth Ann Marrie, David B Hogan, Peter C Austin, Simone N Vigod, Richard H Swartz, Susan E Bronskill. Incidence of neurological and psychiatric comorbidity over time: a population-based cohort study in Ontario, Canada. Age and Ageing, 2022; 51 (2) DOI: 10.1093/ageing/afab277

Page Citations

University of Waterloo. “History of neurological or psychiatric conditions increases the likelihood of developing more.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2022. <>.

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Name of the Organisation: Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Society

The PDMDS is an all India charity organization founded in 2001 and registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. The organisation has 60 Parkinson’s Support centres in 13 states all over India. This Mumbai paradigm has been replicated in other parts of the country through the ‘PDMDS MULTIDISIPLINARY MODEL OF CARE’ which has been internationally recognized as one of the best models of care for developing countries.


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Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation

Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone who is experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.


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