January 1, 2012
Silent Strokes May Cause Memory Loss In Seniors
Tiny areas of dead tissue located within the brain might be the cause of some instances of memory loss in older adults, a new study scheduled for publication this week has suggested.
According to Alan Mozes of USA Today HealthDay, the study -- which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will be published in the January 3 edition of the journal Neurology -- looked at 658 men and women at least 65 years of age.
None of the study participants had a history of dementia, and all of them underwent MRI brain scans and various memory, linguistic skill, visual perception and related tests, Mozes said. The researchers discovered that 174 subjects had experienced silent strokes, and that those individuals did not perform as well on the memory exams as the other study participants.
"Given that conditions like Alzheimer's disease are defined mainly by memory problems, our results may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms and the development of new interventions for prevention," study co-author Adam M. Brickman, an assistant neurology professor with the Columbia University Medical Center, said in a statement, according to Jeannine Stein of the Los Angeles Times.
Lara Salahi of ABC News notes that Brickman and his colleagues also analyzed the hippocampus sizes of their subjects, who had an average age of 79 years old. Prior research had linked a smaller hippocampus with cognitive decline, she said, but this was said not to be a factor in the comparatively poor performance of those subjects confirmed to have suffered silent strokes.
"We showed that above and beyond size, stroke also contributed to the memory loss and could be a potential indicator for Alzheimer's development," Brickman told Salahi, noting that it might be beneficial to monitor older adults at risk for the condition in order to potentially "prevent stroke, which may be a viable way of preventing cognitive changes of aging."
"While the study suggests some connection between silent strokes and memory decline, it's unclear whether silent strokes are a potential marker for later development of Alzheimer's disease," ABC News also reported. "Researchers are now following participants over a longer period of time to see whether some will develop Alzheimer's."
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