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Having a 'Purpose in Life' May Help Shield You From Dementia
Date:5/7/2012

that purpose in life has anything to do with mental powers in old age. But if there is a connection, it may have something to do with the brain's capacity, said Dr. James Burke, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Duke University Medical Center.

Similarly, people who have more education seem to be better able to tolerate brain-clogging plaques and tangles without having as many cognitive problems, Burke said. "My own analogy is that if a city has more roads, it can tolerate more blocked roads while still allowing you to get to your destination. This is commonly used as the explanation, but difficult to prove."

The study is published in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

In other Alzheimer's disease news, a small new study indicates that deep brain stimulation -- a treatment being tested to treat mental problems -- seems to help the brain work more efficiently in people who appear to have a mild form of the disease. (The disease can't be conclusively diagnosed until after death.)

The researchers, Gwenn Smith of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues, examined four men and one woman who underwent the treatment for a year.

In deep brain stimulation, the brain is zapped with an electronic pulse that comes from a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest.

The study, which was published online May 7 in the Archives of Neurology, was very small and "a very early look" at a new kind of treatment, noted Burke, who was not involved in the research. More research is needed, he added.

More information

For more about Alzheimer's disease, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Patricia A. Boyle, Ph.D., associate professor, Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; James R. Burke, M.D., Ph.D., director
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