Researchers Look at Role of Mental Resilience in Delaying Cognitive Decline

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Let’s make this clear – there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  But there are numerous researchers who are devoting their energies into trying to understand the factors that may be at play as this disease develops in the brain. Some researchers are working toward developing drug interventions to halt Alzheimer’s progression while others are looking at whether factors from earlier in a person’s life make a difference in the disease’s onslaught.

    I, like many of you, would love to feel like I have some control in whether the disease strikes me. Although (as I mentioned earlier) no one at this point really understands all of the ins and outs of dementia, there have been some interesting studies announced recently that give those of us who worry about this disease some guidance on lifestyle behaviors that may make a difference.

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    Take for instance a study led by Dr. Susanne Steinberg of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine which looked at cognitive resilience as people age. Steinberg and her colleagues researched the cognitive resilience – which was defined as stable cognitive performance over a three-year period in which the subject’s performance changes by less than 2 percent – of 136 adults who were 65 or older who lived independently and had no evidence of memory impairment. Most of this group had a college education and were professionals or administrators. More women (61 percent) than men participated in the study; additionally, 85 percent of the participants were White while 13 percent were Black.

    Dr. Steinberg’s team met with the study participants to develop baseline findings through completing assessments on stress, anxiety, depression, personality traits, and a computerized evaluation of cognition, as well as a detailed medical history and a physical exam. The researchers then followed the study participants for three years.

    According to a 2011 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) press release, “… the researchers found that the most significant factors related to maintaining healthy cognition included low scores on measures of stress, anxiety, depression and trauma – despite participants’ experiencing life-threatening illnesses, violence, or living with addicted parents and spouses.”


    The researchers also identified a positive coping style, which included developing a strategy, staying positive, seeking assistance, and taking action. 
    The researchers are using this information to develop what they are describing as a “Resilience Index” that would help promote cognitive stability.

    This information is important, especially in the current chaos that seems to be gripping our governments, stock market, and the latest reports on the nightly news. With everything (and everyone) seemingly going crazy, it’s too easy to let your stress levels rise and to sink into anxiety and depression. So it’s important to take time for yourself, surround yourself with positive people, and tune out “the talking heads.” Find time to meditate, find an activity that brings you joy, and commit to learning how to deal with life’s challenges in a positive and productive manner.  Your brain will thank you in the short term (and maybe even in the long term)!

Published On: August 10, 2011