Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) may increase a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.
In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells begin to degenerate and die, causing severe problems with memory and cognition. There is no cure, and medications only temporarily improve symptoms.
The researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, make the case that when a person has a prolonged habit of negative thinking, it can cause a decline in the brain’s ability to think, reason, and form memories.
Until recently, Alzheimer’s research has focused on the physical factors that precede the onset of dementia symptoms. The new study, however, shows that psychological symptoms are just as important and that these mental traits can be observed before any physical factors appear.
Such negative thinking is commonly found in people suffering from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and life stress; these are conditions that have already been linked to Azheimer’s disease.
Prolonged negative thinking may occur consciously or subconsciously and drain the brain’s limited resources. Furthermore, it triggers a physical stress response in the brain, which has been shown to cause damage and reduce the brain’s resiliency to Alzheimer’s disease over time.
Genetics play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s, with a particular gene variant known as APOE e4 increasing the odds.
Not everyone with this gene variant will develop the disease, however, suggesting that other influences are involved as well. Prior research has found that people with this gene variant who also suffer from mental health problems, such as depression, are at even greater risk for developing the disease.
A similar study involving 1,449 people (average age 71) was recently published in the journal American Academy of Neurology, in which researchers found that cynical people are at greater risk for developing dementia.
Specifically, those who went on to develop Alzheimer’s were plagued by doubts that others were telling the truth, and they tended to believe that most people are motivated by self-interest. In fact, the people with the highest levels of cynical distrust had a 2.54 times greater risk of dementia than those with the lowest levels of cynicism.
Source: King’s College London