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Conscientious People Less Prone to Alzheimer's
Date:10/1/2007

Living up to your responsibilities may protect brain, study suggests

MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- People who are conscientious and prone to "doing the right thing" are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as they age, according to a long-running study of Catholic nuns, priests and brothers.

"It's a broad-based trait that is particularly about impulse control, self-discipline and delayed gratification," said Robert S. Wilson, professor of neuropsychology at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and lead author of a report in the October Archives of General Psychiatry.

The finding is the latest from the study, which began in 1994. Previous reports have noted that people who suppress their rage rather than venting it are more likely to die young and that more years of schooling preserves cognitive function.

When the trial began, the participants were read statements such as, "When I make a commitment, I can always be counted upon to come through," designed to test their conscientiousness, and rated their agreement with each of 12 items. The test was repeated annually.

"We've been following up for 12 years, and people who are low in the conscientious trait are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease," Wilson said. "That is true even when we controlled for other personality traits and risk factors and also how people were physically, cognitively and socially active."

In the overall spectrum of personality-based risk factors, conscientiousness ranked at the top and was as important as neuroticism in determining whether a person would develop Alzheimer's disease, Wilson said.

Just how conscientiousness affects Alzheimer's risk remains unknown, he said. Autopsies show no difference in brain damage related to the self-ratings of the trait, Wilson said.

"Is it a risk factor itself or a proxy for something else?" Wilson asked. "It does seem to be
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