Distress-prone People More Likely To Develop Memory Problems

Distress-prone People More Likely To Develop Memory Problems

ScienceDaily (Jun. 12, 2007) — People who are
easily distressed and have more negative emotions are more likely to
develop memory problems than more easygoing people, according to a new
study.

In the study, those who most often experience negative emotions such
as depression and anxiety were 40 percent more likely to develop mild
cognitive impairment than those who were least prone to negative
emotions. Mild cognitive impairment is a transitional stage between
normal aging and dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment have
mild memory or cognitive problems, but have no significant disability.

Researchers analyzed the results from two larger studies, the
Religious Orders Study and the Memory and Aging Project, which involved
1,256 people with no cognitive impairment. During up to 12 years of
follow-up, 482 people developed mild cognitive impairment. Participants
were evaluated on their level of proneness to distress and negative
emotions by rating their level of agreement with statements such as "I
am not a worrier," "I often feel tense and jittery," and "I often get
angry at the way people treat me."

"People differ in how they tend to experience and deal with negative
emotions and psychological distress, and the way people respond tends
to stay the same throughout their adult lives," said study author
Robert S. Wilson, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago,
IL. "These findings suggest that, over a lifetime, chronic experience
of stress affects the area of the brain that governs stress response.
Unfortunately, that part of the brain also regulates memory."

An earlier study by Wilson and his colleagues showed that people who
are easily distressed are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease
than more easygoing people.

Wilson said several factors lead researchers to believe that
proneness to stress is a risk factor for memory problems and not an
early sign of disease. For example, while the level of distress does
not appear to increase in old age, the changes in the brain related to
memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease do increase with age.

This research was published in the June 12, 2007, issue of
Neurology®, the scientific journal of the American Academy of
Neurology. The study was supported by grants from the National
Institute on Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Adapted from materials provided by American Academy of Neurology.

 

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