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Negative thinking may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Many studies have shown us that your mental health plays a major role in improving and maintaining your physical health.

Now a recent study from University College London has discovered that your mental health can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease—a progressive neurological disease.

The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by a build-up of amyloid beta and tau proteins in the brain. This leads to a worsening of memory. 

Several psychological risk factors, including depression and anxiety, have been identified for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the Cognitive Debt hypothesis suggests that there may be an underlying mechanism to these risk factors, namely repetitive negative thinking (RNT).

RNT is a cognitive process in which one is continuously worrying about the future or ruminating over past events.

The current study investigated the relationship between RNT and Alzheimer’s disease using neuroimaging markers of amyloid beta and tau deposits in the brain.

It comprised 292 people over the age of 55, including 113 people who were part of the PREVENT-AD cohort study, and 68 from the IMAP+ cohort.

For two years, the study participants responded to questions relating to RNT, particularly how they think about negative experiences. They also completed anxiety and depression questionnaires, which screen for depression and anxiety symptoms.

Some participants (113) underwent PET brain scans to measure the volume of amyloid beta and tau proteins while all participants were assessed for cognitive function while measuring memory, attention, language and spatial cognition.

The researchers found that participants with higher RNT patterns had more cognitive decline in a four-year period. They also had more decline in memory and more amyloid beta and tau deposits in the brain.

They also found that depression and anxiety were linked to a subsequent decline in cognition. However, there was no association between depression and anxiety with either amyloid or tau deposits. This suggests that RNT may be the reason anxiety and depression contributes to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers hope to further examine this link between RNT and dementia and see whether certain interventions such as mindfulness and talking therapies can help reduce RNT and promote positive mental health, which is vital to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: Repetitive negative thinking is associated with amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2020


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