Surgery News

Easily distressed people more likely to develop memory problems

August 17, 2015

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.


Validating PET scans, A study reported by scientists at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute, Phoenix, Ariz., and colleagues compared changes over time in PET scans of glucose metabolism in people with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. The study found that scans correlated with symptoms of each condition and that images from different clinical sites were comparable (or consistent). This study suggests the validity of PET scans for use in future clinical trials.

MRI Reliability, A Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., study found that a standard anatomical model of a brain can be used successfully to monitor performance of MRI scanners at many different clinical sites. This will ensure accuracy of the MRI images produced from ADNI volunteers using 80 MRI scanners from scores of sites over five years.

Biomarker Analysis, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, scientists and colleagues compared analyses of cerebrospinal fluid samples among seven laboratories. The study evaluated differences within and among the labs, performance. This study will ensure that methods for measuring biomarkers are accurate and comparable across laboratories.

An important achievement of ADNI is the creation of a publicly accessible database available to qualified researchers worldwide. The database contains thousands of MRI and PET scan brain images and clinical data and will include biomarker data obtained through blood and cerebrospinal fluid analyses. ADNI includes samples and brain scans from 200 people with Alzheimer's, 400 people with mild cognitive impairment and 200 healthy people. All volunteers are between ages 55 and 90. Confidentiality of the participants is rigorously protected.

"The database gives ADNI researchers easy access to a huge body of data. But its added value is its design as an international research resource, available worldwide to other researchers interested in neurodegenerative disease," says Susan Molchan, M.D., NIA's program director for ADNI.