Alzheimer’s Trigger May Lie in Negative Views Toward Aging

Alzheimer’s Trigger May Lie in Negative Views Toward Aging
Yale School of Public Health researchers have demonstrated that stress caused by negative attitudes and beliefs toward aging can lead to pathological brain damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The research paper, the first to correlate a cultural and psychosocial risk factor to Alzheimer’s disease onset, was published online in the journal Psychology and Aging. The research study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), included biostatistician Martin Slade of the Yale School of Medicine, neurologist Juan Troncoso of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and researchers from the NIA's Intramural Research Program. The multifaceted research team analyzed, through MRI exams, the brains of healthy, disease-free participants in the country's longest-running study of aging, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The team then compared imaging results of people with negative views and attitudes toward aging with those from people holding more positive views. They found that in the first group of participants, those with negative outlooks on growing old, a higher prevalence of an Alzheimer’s disease indicator — that of a reduced volume in the hippocampus, a part of the brain central to short- and long-term memory formation and spatial navigation. Next, investigators performed autopsies on brain tissue from patients who, 28 years earlier, had been questioned on aging stereotypes and beliefs, to examine two other Alzheimer’s disease markers: amyloid protein plaques, or protein accumulation that leads to progressive neuronal death, and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein that also cause
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