The role stress may play in causing dementia is being investigated in a new research project funded by the Alzheimer’s Society.
The study, being led by Professor Clive Holmes at the University of Southampton, will monitor 140 people aged over 50 with mild cognitive impairment during an 18-month period.
The participants will be assessed for levels of stress and any progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.
About 60% of people with mild cognitive impairment are known to go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Prof Holmes said: “All of us go through stressful events. We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s.
“Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience – possibly even moving home – is also a potential factor.
“This is the first stage in developing ways in which to intervene with psychological or drug-based treatments to fight the disease.
“We are looking at two aspects of stress relief – physical and psychological – and the body’s response to that experience.”
The study is part of a £1.5 million package of six grants being given by the charity to find the cause of the disease, a cure and a way to prevent it.
Alzheimer’s Society research manager Anne Corbett said: “The study will look at the role chronic stress plays in the progression from mild thinking and memory problems – mild cognitive impairment – to Alzheimer’s disease.
“We feel this is a really important area of research that needs more attention. The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition.
“It will also be valuable to understand how different ways of coping with stressful life events could influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
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