Alzheimer's Study: How Smart Were You When You Were 20?
Damage has already occurred in the Alzheimer's patient's brain before signs like memory loss or confusion are observed. But there are some persons whose brains are diseased by dementia that never show signs of memory impairment....
Researchers at John's Hopkins University studied the brains of nuns after their deaths to ascertain if Alzheimer's protein plaques and nerve cell tangles were present in their brains. The nuns had been participants in ongoing research projects.
The scientists separated the women into two groups:
1) those who had memory problems and dementia damage in the brain, and
2) those who did not have memory problems, regardless of whether or not they showed dementia damage in the brain.
The researchers then discovered that some of the nuns who showed dementia damage to the brain, did not experience memory impairment. Why?
Researchers then looked at the results of intelligence tests the nuns took when they entered the convent in their late teens or early twenties, and the results of high language scorers correlated with the nuns that did not have memory problems, even if they had dementia damage to the brain. Their language scores were 20 percent higher than those that had memory problems.
Additionally, essays that the nuns wrote during the same time period were analyzed, and the complexity of language used was also consistent with retained memory, although grammar scores did not make any difference between the groups.
Further observations also found that brain cells were larger in size among the women who did not encounter memory problems, even if their brains showed signs of Alzheimer's.
Lead researcher Dr Juan Troncoso said: "Despite the small number of participants in this portion of the study, the finding is a fascinating one.
"Our results show that an intellectual ability test in the early 20s may predict the likelihood of remaining cognitively normal five or six decades later, even in the presence of a large amount of Alzheimer's disease pathology.... "Perhaps mental abilities at age 20 are indicative of a brain that will be better able to cope with diseases later in life."
(Of course there would be exceptions!)
BBC News (photo from The Confluence)
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