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Information stress can cause Alzheimer's-like symptoms

News: May 30, 2008

The present-day rapid flow of information makes great demands on people. For some, the task of handling information can be so demanding that they are unable to cope and are affected by mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy shows.

MCI is a condition in which a person suffers cognitive failure, that is to say fails with regard to thinking functions, and may be a precursor to forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. MCI is often characterised by impaired memory function, but the thesis written by the registered psychologist Arto Nordlund shows that almost everyone with MCI also has other symptoms such as attention deficit and spatial awareness, difficulty in planning and language-related symptoms.

In the thesis, Nordlund describes how a more "benign" MCI, that is to say MCI not caused by precursors of dementia, behaves. In a number of people with MCI the deterioration is caused for example by stress or physical diseases. In these cases the person affected can generally return to normal function. In people with "benign" MCI only one thinking function was disturbed, such as attention deficit or reduced ability to plan. On the other hand, all patients who went on to develop dementia within two years had disturbances of several functions, generally memory impairment or impaired function in another two areas, such as language and spatial awareness.

Another observation made by Nordlund is that the patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease are strikingly young. The average age of the patients was just over 64, which means that a very large proportion were of working age. A possible explanation for this may be that today we live a life that makes great demands on our cognitive functions.
"The most important criterion for dementia is that cognitive functions deteriorate to such an extent that activities of daily living are clearly affected. It may perhaps be that the activities of daily living with a rapid flow of information are now so demanding that the bar for dementia has been lowered," says Arto.

Another new finding in the thesis is that it is already possible, on the basis of symptom profile in the MCI phase, to distinguish people who will gradually go on to develop Alzheimer's disease from those who will develop the second most common form of dementia, vascular dementia, that is to say dementia caused by pathological changes in the blood vessels in the brain.
"This finding is important in view of the increasing options for treating dementia, as it makes it possible to commence treatment at an earlier stage of the disease," says Nordlund.

The thesis was written by:
Arto Nordlund, registered psychologist, telephone: +46 (0)70-359 35 00, e-mail: arto.nordlund@neuro.gu.se

Supervisor:
Professor Anders Wallin, telephone: +46 (0)705-939 551, e-mail: anders.wallin@neuro.gu.se

Thesis for doctorate of medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology.
Title of thesis: Cognitive profiles of vascular and neurodegenerative MCI
The thesis has been defended.

BY:
+46 31 786 3869

Originally published on: sahlgrenska.gu.se

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