Constantly having negative thoughts may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, United Kingdom, argue that psychological factors can trigger a physical stress response in the brain, and over a prolonged period of the time, could damage the brain and its ability to stop Alzheimer’s.
Their theory, which the researchers call “Cognitive Debt,” holds that negative thoughts and behaviors can consume finite brain resources, increasing vulnerability to Alzheimer's disease, they write in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Put another way, repetitive negative thinking (RPT) over many years negatively impacts the brain’s capacity to think, reason and form memories.
The researchers note that RNT is common in many types of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all conditions that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s on their own.
They also don’t question that genetics plays a role in the disease, given that people with a particular variant of a gene known as APOE e4 have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. But since people without that variant also get Alzheimer’s, they say this indicates other factors may play a role in developing the disease.
“If future research supports this hypothesis, this would have implications for the treatment of the disease through psychological interventions,” Natalie Marchant, PhD, of the IoPPN and a study co-author, said in a statement.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks, according to the National Institute on Aging. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first…
Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London have proposed that repetitive negative thinking (RNT), a common symptom of many psychological disorders, may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Until recently, research into Alzheimer’s disease has focused on how physical factors are linked to the onset of symptoms. However, scientists at the IoPPN suggest that there are psychological factors that make a person more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease; and that these factors occur before any physical indicators of the disease emerge.