Study Launched to Investigate the Connection between Stress and Dementia

Experts from the University of Southampton are to start research to discover whether stress can cause dementia.

The study, which is being financed by the Alzheimer’s Society, will observe 140 people who currently have mild cognitive impairment or “pre-dementia” and investigate how stress affects the condition.

They hope that the study will expose methods to prevent dementia.  The results may provide signs to new treatments or improved methods of managing the illness, they say.

Individuals who have mild cognitive impairment are at an amplified risk of going on to develop dementia, though some will remain constant and others could improve.

“Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience – possibly even moving home – are also potential factors” Professor Clive Holmes from the University of Southampton, who will lead the study, commented.

The investigators will take blood and saliva samples at 6 month interludes over 18 months to measure the biological markers of stress.

Previous Research Studies

Previous research has also suggested that mid-life stress could raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A Swedish study that monitored approximately 1,500 women for 35 years found the risk of dementia was roughly 65% greater in females who conveyed recurring periods of stress in middle age than in those who did not.

Scottish scientists, who have done research on animals, believe the connection could be as a result of hormones the body discharges in reaction to stress which hamper with the brain function.

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, commented that “we welcome any research that could shed new light on Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia.”

“Understanding the risk factors for Alzheimer’s could provide one piece of the puzzle we need to take us closer to a treatment that could stop the disease in its tracks,” Ridley added.

Holmes noted that “all of us go through stressful events. We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s.”

“We are looking at two aspects of stress relief – physical and psychological – and the body’s response to that experience,” Holmes noted.

“This is the first stage in developing ways in which to intervene with psychological or drug-based treatments to fight the disease,” he added.


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