Study to examine link between Stress and Dementia


By Charlotte Summers

It has been revealed that the Alzheimer’s society is to fund research examining the influence of stress on the development of Dementia.

Previously, a Swedish study examined the levels of stress and the occurrence of stressful life events in the lives of 1,500 women and their subsequent health. The study followed the women for over 35 years and reported that the risk of suffering with dementia increased by 65 percent in those women who had experienced repeated and prolonged periods of stress during their middle ages.

Italian researchers examined the levels of stress hormone cortisol in the brains of three groups, healthy young individuals, young individuals with dementia and older individuals without any signs of dementia. It was reported that the young individuals diagnosed with dementia had significantly higher levels of cortisol in their brains during the night when levels should be at their lowest than both other groups.

Scientists in Scotland examined the link between stress hormones and brain function in rats. They found that cortisol greatly influenced brain functions and over time caused cerebral atrophy which is brain cell death in the regions of memory. This is equivalent of the pathogenesis of dementia in humans.

The latest study that will be commissioned by the Alzheimer’s society and due to be completed at the University of Southampton, will take blood and saliva samples of 140 people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment sometimes referred to as “pre-dementia”. The samples will be taken at 6 month intervals over a period of 18 months.

It is hoped that this research will shed light on how stress impacts the development of dementia in order that more effective preventatives or treatments could be implemented for individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.