Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) seems to be a natural condition that occurs with age. Older individuals report common experiences of forgetfulness, difficulty with problem solving, and sensory impairment. Research has shown that certain classifications of MCI can be predictive of further deficits and even dementia and Alzheimer’s (AD). However, a recent study conducted by Perminder S. Sachdev, of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales Medicine in Australia, suggests that there are certain factors that can actually lead to reversal of MCI.
In the study, Sachdev assessed 233 individuals between the ages of 71 and 89 years old for levels of MCI. The participants were also evaluated for physical illness, psychological conditions, sensory capacity, and other factors that could affect MCI. They were assessed at baseline and again 2 years later. Sachdev found that the 66 participants who reverted back to normal levels of cognitive functioning shared some similarities. In particular, they were more likely to have a more mild form of MCI than those who did not revert. They also had more intact vision and smell senses. The reverters engaged in activities that stimulated cognitive processes such as reading, puzzles, and problem solving. They were more open to new experiences, had fewer incidences of arthritis and had better blood pressure levels than the non-reverters.
All of these conditions can be seen as disconnected, yet Sachdev explains that in fact, they are all related. For instance, having more severe MCI can prohibit people from engaging in activites that require thinking, such as problem solving and reading. Also, sensory deprivation can cause people to avoid activities that require use of those senses. Perhaps people with poor vision may choose not to take on visual tasks that could stimulate cognitive abilities. In addition, pain from arthritis could tax cognitive pathways, which could further impede on resources need to perform some of the protective tasks. Likewise, individuals with depression, stress, or high blood pressure may have temporary states of MCI as a result. When their psychological and physical symptoms are reduced through therapy or medication, their cognitive abilities can rebound. Even though many of the participants did go on to experience sustained or further MCI, this study shows that many individuals with MCI can take advantage of activities that could potentially reverse the impairment. “Assessing these factors could facilitate more accurate prognosis of individuals with MCI.” Sachdev added, “Participation in cognitively enriching activities and efforts to lower blood pressure might promote reversion.”
Sachdev PS, et al. (2013). Factors predicting reversion from mild cognitive impairment to normal cognitive functioning: A population-based study. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59649. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059649
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