Sunday, February 23, 2014

Common Infections May Increase Risk for Memory Decline

News Brief by Alice Chan

Research studies have previously reported that certain kinds of infections increase the risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. The results of a recent study further suggest that even mere exposure to infections can impact cognitive functioning. Dr. Clinton Wright, scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami, collaborated with researchers at Columbia University on the Northern Manhattan study, a five-year study on the risk factors for cognitive performance decline. 588 participants completed brain function tasks and provided blood samples for the study. Five years later, half of the original participants recompleted the brain function tasks. The research team discovered that exposure to infections such as Chlamydia pneumonia and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 was associated with weakened cognitive functioning, namely memory and mental processing speed, and increased risk for stroke. The relationship between the infections and impaired cognitive performance remains unknown to the authors of the Northern Manhattan study. Dr. Wright suggests that “It could be caused by an immune system response to the infections or the infection itself could result in clinical damage that we're not aware of.” As for treating the infections examined in the Northern Manhattan study, he adds that, “there is no evidence yet that treating these infections is beneficial … it would be great if treatment prevented these bad outcomes, but we're very far away from having that type of evidence."

Common infections may increase risk for memory decline. (2014, February 13). EurekAlert!. Retrieved February 17, 2014, from
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