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Alzheimer’s: Negative thinking can increase the risk of dementia

Updated June 10, 2020, 12:24 p.m.

Repeated negative thinking can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. A study by the “University College London” found out. In addition, pessimists have poorer memory and greater cognitive decline.

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One study found that repetitive negative thinking later in life can be associated with greater cognitive decline. In addition, pessimistic people increasingly accumulate two harmful proteins in the brain that are responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

The scientists have published their results in the specialist magazine “Alzheimer’s & Dementia”. “We believe that repetitive negative thinking could be a new risk factor for dementia,” said Natalie Marchant, the study’s lead author and psychologist, in a statement on the university’s side.

Pessimists have poor memory

The researchers asked over 350 people about negative ways of thinking, such as worrying about the past or worrying about the future. The measurements were carried out over a period of two years. The people were all over 55 years old.

Around a third of the participants underwent a PET scan (positron emission tomography) of the brain. The scientists used this to measure the number of two proteins in the brain. Tau proteins and beta amyloids cause Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

The recordings showed that people who were more concerned with negative thoughts had a larger accumulation of tau proteins and beta amyloids. They also developed poorer memory and greater cognitive decline over a four-year period than people who are not pessimists.

The study also looked at anxiety and depression among participants. Depressed or anxious people had a greater cognitive decline. This finding supports results from previous studies.

Worries and brooding have negative effects on the brain

However, the researchers also found that anxious or depressed people did not have a higher number of tau proteins and beta amyloids than others. That’s why the scientists believe that repeated negative thinking is the main reason why depression and anxiety can promote Alzheimer’s.

“In addition to other studies that link depression and anxiety to an increased risk of dementia, we expect that chronic negative thinking patterns could increase the risk of dementia over a long period of time,” Marchant said.

“This is the first study to show a biological relationship between repeated negative thinking and Alzheimer’s,” said Richard Isaacson, neurologist and founder of Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic, the CNN news channel. It gives physicists the opportunity to better assess the risk and to offer more individual intervention measures.

“Many people at risk are unaware of the negative effects of worry and brooding on the brain,” Isaacson said.

Short periods of negative thoughts do not lead to Alzheimer’s

Further measurements are now necessary to support the scientists’ thesis. It is “important to point out that short periods of negative thoughts will not lead to Alzheimer’s,” said Fiona Carragher, head of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Policy and Research Department in London, “CNN”.

Most of the participants in the study had known in advance that they had an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, the researchers would have to find out whether the results also apply to the average population.

Sources used:

  • Alzheimer’s & Dementia: “Repetitive negative thinking is associated with amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline”
  • University College London: “Repetitive negative thinking linked to dementia risk”
  • CNN: “Negative thinking linked to dementia in later life, but you can learn to be more positive”

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