Stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ences can age the brain, re­search sug­gests

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Press As­so­ci­a­tion

Stress­ful life ex­pe­ri­ences can age the brain by sev­eral years, new re­search sug­gests. Ex­perts led by a team from the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin School of Medicine and Pub­lic Health found that even one ma­jor stress­ful event early in life may have an im­pact on later brain health.

The team ex­am­ined data for 1,320 peo­ple with an av­er­age age of 58 who re­ported stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ences. A se­ries of neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal tests ex­am­ined ar­eas in­clud­ing mem­ory. The re­sults showed that a larger num­ber of stress­ful events was linked to poorer cog­ni­tive func­tion in later life.

The study was pre­sented at the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence in Lon­don. Maria Car­rillo, its chief sci­ence of­fi­cer, said: “The stress­ful events that the re­searchers were fo­cus­ing on were a large va­ri­ety ... the death of a par­ent, abuse, loss of a job, loss of a home ... di­vorce.” She said that even a change of school could be re­garded as a stress­ful life event for some chil­dren.

Doug Brown, di­rec­tor of re­search and de­vel­op­ment at the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety, said: “We know that pro­longed stress can have an im­pact on our health, so it’s no sur­prise that this study in­di­cates stress­ful life events may also af­fect our mem­ory and think­ing abil­i­ties later in life. How­ever, it re­mains to be es­tab­lished whether th­ese stress­ful life events can lead to an in­creased risk of de­men­tia.

“The find­ings do in­di­cate that more should be done to sup­port peo­ple from dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties that are more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence stress­ful life events. As we im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of risk fac­tors for de­men­tia, it is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to es­tab­lish the role that stress and stress­ful life events play.”

The test re­sults showed stress­ful events were linked to poorer cog­ni­tive func­tions later in a per­son’s life

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