Alzheimer’s Disease Isn’t Always Caused by Cognitive Decline

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Alzheimer’s Disease Isn’t Always Marked by Cognitive Decline

Although some cognitively frail adults have impaired cognition, their brain structure and function remain intact.

When people experience cognitive problems for the first time, they are often concerned that disease is on the way.

According to new research published in JNeurosci, poor cognition can be a part of the normalcy spectrum as people get older.

Kocagoncu et al. compared the brains of cognitively frail adults — those with reduced cognitive function but no memory problems — to the brains of adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and healthy controls.

From the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience study, they recruited healthy and cognitively frail adults.

Researchers used a battery of tests to assess participants’ cognition, MRI to assess their brain structure, and EEG and MEG to assess their brain activity.

On the cognitive tests, cognitively frail adults performed similarly to adults with MCI, i.e., worse than controls.

However, their brain structure and activity were similar to that of healthy controls: atrophy in areas such as the hippocampus, which is common in adults with Alzheimer’s disease, was not seen in cognitively frail adults.

Impaired cognition is not always an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and can occur as a result of normal aging.

Physical activity, stress, education, and cardiovascular health may all play a role in cognitive frailty, and many of these factors are reversible and modifiable.

“Neurophysiological and Brain Structural Markers of Cognitive Frailty Differ from Alzheimer’s Disease,” JNeurosci, 10.1523JNEUROSCI0697-21.2021 (10 January 2022).

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