Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by cortical dementia and irreversibly progressive developments leading to a vegetative state and, finally, to death. Although many aspects of its etiology, diagnosis and treatment still remain obscure and the current approach to the disease mostly suffers from limited and low-efficiency therapeutic means, nevertheless, recent interventions have aimed at improving patients’ quality of life through nonpharmacological approaches, including animal-assisted therapy (AAT), arousing growing interest. In order to assess the physiological and neuropsychological effects of AAT on AD, 24 residents of a rest house in northern Italy were enrolled. The intervention consisted of one 45-minute AAT session per week over ten weeks. Twelve residents (six AD and six non-AD) received AAT and twelve (six AD and six non-AD) were controls. In order to evaluate the physiological and clinical effect of AAT on AD residents, three cardiac parameters, including the systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate, were measured. Moreover, the neurocognitive and depressive states were assessed by the Mini Mental State Examination and the Geriatric Depression Scale, respectively. Analyses were performed by a four-way ANOVA model (including two ways for repeated measures) considering each main effect and interaction possible in the design. Our findings, despite the small sample size, suggest that AAT has a positive significant effect on physiological parameters and neurocognitive impairment, while no effect was observed on the depression level.
|Department of Biomolecular Sciences, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, 61029 Urbino, Italy.Studio A.P., via 25 Aprile n. 8, 37030 Vago di Lavagno, Italy.Smallegade 24, 2.tv, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark.Department of Clinical and Molecular Sciences, Università Politecnica delle Marche, 60126 Ancona, Italy.
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