Can Teenage Traits Predict Alzheimer's?
Being president of the high school French club, an honor roll student, and the fastest runner on the cross country team could do more than boost your chances for college admissions. Much more. Challenging activities and high test scores as a teenager could also lower your risk for developing the debilitating Alzheimer's disease and other memory disorders as an older adult.
At least that's the hypothesis formulated by Thomas Fritsch, a Case Western Reserve University research psychologist, who is conducting a study of 663 graduates of Cleveland Heights High School who received their diplomas in 1944, 1945, and 1946. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, preliminary study results show that young people who develop their minds in class and in after-school activities in high school have a far lower chance of developing the memory-robbing disease later.
It's the use-it-or-lose-it theory. Other studies have shown that adults in their middle-age and senior years who use their minds daily by reading or learning new things are at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's, but no other study has gone back as far as the teenage years to find such a link. Fritsch is doing just that, analyzing the students' grades in every class, scores on three standardized aptitude tests, and their extracurricular activities to see if there is a correlation between what they did at age 16 and how their minds function at age 75.
The preliminary study: The preliminary results are intriguing. Each of the 663 participants was contacted by telephone and asked a series of questions to determine their current level of cognitive abilities and memory function. The results of these neurocognitive tests, along with basic facts from their high school records, were entered into a computer program.
The preliminary results: There is a correlation between high scores on an aptitude test called the "Otis Self-Administering Tests of Mental Ability" taken when the students were 15 and better memory functioning at age 75. "We found that those who had better cognitive function in youth had better cognitive functioning as 75-year-olds," Fritsch told the Plain Dealer.
The next question to be answered: Did the seniors who have memory problems now also earn lower test scores in high school, participate in fewer school activities, and get lower grades?
Can teenage abilities and achievements actually be a barometer of a person's mental agility during old age? "It's possible that the enhanced skills associated with higher test scores might be an indicator of cognitive reserve," Fritsch told the Plain Dealer. "Those reserves might build up resistance against memory problems as we age."
The preliminary study findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in San Diego.
Source: Netscape News