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July 14, 2020 • Healthy Eating & Nutrition

Negative Thinking and Dementia

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When it comes to the risk of dementia, it appears your thoughts matter. That was the eye-opening conclusion of a provocative new study published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia. For this study scientists carefully measured the cognitive function of 292 middle-age to older study subjects over a four-year period. The cognitive assessments included measures of memory, spatial cognition, attention, and language.
The study subjects also had their thinking patterns regularly monitored over two of the four years by responding to a series of questions. The thought pattern questionnaire used was specifically designed to identify repetitive negative thinking, RNT for short. RNT includes ruminating about negative past events as well as future sources of anxiety. About a third of the study subjects also had PET scans of their brains specifically measuring levels of the two abnormal brain proteins, tau and amyloid, that build up in those affected with Alzheimer’s.
The findings? Study subjects with greater RNT patterns exhibited a clear decrease in cognitive function and memory over the four-year period. What’s more, they also had more tau and amyloid build up in their brains. It is well-documented that our thoughts have powerful, direct physiologic effects on our bodies so these results aren’t surprising.
Thankfully, studies also show that we can change our thoughts patterns through mental training practices, with meditation documented to be one of the best. As someone who is prone to negative rumination, I can speak personally to the power of meditation to arrest RNT, and I encourage everyone to explore this simple, yet radically transformative practice. (Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2020; DOI: 10.1002/alz.12116)
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