Monday, March 11, 2013

Reducing Cerebrovascular Disease May Prevent Cognitive Decline

Which factor is a greater contributor to cognitive decline in seniors? Vascular brain injury or amyloid plaques? Vascular brain injury, a study headed by Natalie Marchant, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, and published in JAMA Neurology suggests. Marchant and colleagues used brain imaging on a sample of 61 older individuals, average age 78, who were cognitively normal, had mild cognitive impairment, or were mildly demented. They wanted to explore the relationship between vascular injury or amyloid plaque deposition and cognitive decline. They found that vascular injury was more influential in accounting for cognitive decline than amyloid plaques were.

"Although mild cognitive impairment is clearly a significant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, the present data suggest that the impact of vascular brain injury should be  considered when defining the etiology of mild cognitive impairment," the researchers concluded. And more crucially, "Reductions in cerebrovascular disease may be important in preventing mild cognitive impairment," they asserted.

But previous research has shown that vascular injury and amyloid-plaque buildup aren't the only factors linked with cognitive decline. Data show that smoking may contribute to cognitive decline as well. To read research on that link, see Psychiatric News here. And as researchers learn more about the elements of cognitive decline, they have also discovered an association with hearing loss. Read about that research in Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Fabio Berti/