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Alzheimer's Disease

Sentence Structure and Alzheimer's

12/28/2000

Question:

I was recently given a newspaper article that reported about a research study done on nuns and their sentence structure. Essentially, the more basic sentence structure the more likley they would develop Alzheimer`s and the more complex the less likely they would develop alzheimer`s. Can you comment on the validity of this study.

thanks

Answer:

Hi, Thank you for your question. Dr. David Geldmacher from the University Alzheimer Center has responded. "This study was carried out by a well-respected research team, and appears to have been conducted properly. The observation is therefore probably valid, but the meaning is unclear. One possible explanation is that, in very subtle ways, Alzheimer`s disease alters the development of the brain from early in life, leading to marginally lower performance in intellectually demanding activities like writing. The alternative explanation is that people with more complex writing styles are the same people who succeed more in school, read more, and have greater intellectual enrichment in their daily lives. These processes result in the brain developing a greater `reserve`. That is, they have grown more connections and developed more complex circuitry than other people without these activities. When AD strikes these more intellectually enriched people, they have a deeper well to draw from, so their AD doesn`t show up as early. This gives them the chance to die of other causes before AD is apparent, making it appear as if AD occurs less often among these people. Both arguments have strong and weak points, and the final answer is currently not known. As is often the case in such black-and-white choices, the biological truth may lie somewhere in between." Thanks again for sending us your question. If you need more information or have other questions, please let us know.

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Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

David   Geldmacher, MD David Geldmacher, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University