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Treating Heart Disease Risk Factors May Slow Alzheimer's Disease,Progression

Complementing Cognitive Reserve

The idea of "cognitive reserve" is that the brains of people with high intelligence and superior education have greater resilience that enables them to cope better with the damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, resulting in later onset of cognitive symptoms though more swift decline.

Simon Forstmeier, PhD, and Andreas Maercker, MD, PhD, of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues have developed and are investigating a complementary concept called "motivational reserve," which suggests that qualities such as will power, self-discipline, motivation and optimism may protect against cognitive decline and delay the manifestation of Alzheimer's. The team is evaluating newly developed instruments for measuring premorbid motivational competence. Established instruments are considered insufficient because they rely mainly on self-report and refer to the present state.

In new research presented at the Alzheimer's Association Prevention Conference, cognitive functions were assessed in a sample of 120 non-demented individuals aged 60 to 95 years. Motivational and cognitive abilities were estimated using these new instruments and procedures based on the individual's occupational history. The researchers found that present cognitive abilities (e.g., verbal fluency and working memory) could be independently predicted by former motivational and cognitive abilities.

An ongoing longitudinal study is investigating the predictive power of motivational reserve on the incidence of MCI and dementia.

"Previous research showed that motivational abilities such as self- motivation, goal setting, and emotion regulation can be trained in individuals with and without psychiatric disorders," Forstmeier said. "The next step is to apply these interventions in people at risk for Alzheimer's or in the early stages of the disease in order to test their ability to delay onset or progression."

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