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Dementia can be triggered by 'negative thoughts'

23rd February 2016
Dementia can be triggered by 'negative thoughts'

Recent studies conducted by academics at Yale School of Public Health have shown that people who think negatively about growing old are more likely to suffer brain changes that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Their research suggested that the infamous words of Descartes ring true in today’s modern society – ‘I think, therefore I am’ – with people who view the ageing process in a negative light could be unknowingly increasing their chances of dementia.

Becca Levy, associate professor of public health and of psychology, said: “We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about ageing that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes.”

The study suggests that eradicating all negative beliefs about growing old, including views such as 'older people are decrepit', could help reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s disease.

"Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realise that these negative beliefs about ageing can be mitigated and positive beliefs about ageing can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

The research was based around the MRI scans of 158 individuals who had their brains scanned once a year for ten years while also being asked how much they agreed with negative statements about growing old.

The results showed that those with stronger negative beliefs had a speedier decline over the ten year period, in terms of the volume of their brain’s hippocampus – the key section of the brain that looks after memory and a recognised indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

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