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Greater Language Skills in 20s May Guard Against Alzheimer's
Date:7/8/2009

memory issues. "We think this percentage could be higher if we could increase the sample size of the subjects to examine. We are working on that," Iacono said.

"The novelty is that these people were normal [cognitively] but they have Alzheimer's disease pathology like the people with dementia," Iacono said. "It's amazing that, even though you have a certain amount of pathology in your brain, you are not demented. You have some protective mechanism."

It's not clear whether that protection comes from genetic factors or from more studying during the first two decades of life, although it does fit with the "cognitive reserve" theory.

"The idea is that we have a sort of cognitive reserve that we start to increase during our second and third decades of life, and you can spend this reserve when you get older," Iacono explained. "In this way, you can avoid the manifestation of dementia even if you have some pathology. This is something we didn't expect."

"This is the second independent sample with the same result. We're back to the metaphor of the brain as a computer and a muscle," said Dr. Gary J. Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "In volunteers who had no signs of Alzheimer's but did have the plaques and tangles, the neurons were actually larger and more functional with more connections."

The paper also showed an increased risk for cognitive impairment in people with the APOE4 gene and a protective effect in those with the APOE2 gene.

The authors are now investigating to see if they can show a connection between the language skills and these particular genes.

More information

Visit the Alzheimer's Association for more on this condition.



SOURCES: Gary J. Kennedy, M.D., director, geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Diego Iac
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