Difficulties in early life affect cognitive function in later adulthood

New discoveries suggest that the allostatic load is related to the challenges of early life and global cognition, as well as executive function. This study was published in a scientific journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

“I became interested in this subject because my grandfather and grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. This has been a catalyst for my interest in understanding the changing factors that contribute to aging and cognitive health, ”said study author Daniel D’Amico.@daniellendamico), Ph.D., Toronto Metropolitan University.

“Throughout my studies, I became interested in life-age models of cognitive aging, as studies showing that age-related cognitive decline and the risk of dementia can be prevented and identified decades before adulthood. I am especially interested in early life, because childhood and adolescence are important stages in the development of the brain, which contributes to cognitive aging throughout life. ”

Cognitive function affects a person’s well-being, such as quality of life, independence, and the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease. Chronic stress can negatively affect cognitive function; Especially in early life, the nervous system is particularly sensitive to the effects of chronic stress. However, it is unknown how chronic stress affects cognitive function.

One possible explanation is allostatic load, which “refers to multiple systemic physiological disregulation due to accumulated wear from chronic stress.” Previous studies have linked early life difficulties with high allostatic load in adults, as well as poor cognitive function, which may suggest a link between early life difficulties and later life cognitive functions.

A total sample of 1,541 participants was included in this study. Participants were selected from the United States National Midwifery Survey (MIDUS) conducted between 2004 and 2006. Participants provided sociographic and health information such as gender, age, education, race, medical diagnoses, and medication use (e.g., hypertension, use of antidepressants last month).

They answered many questions assessing the perceived socio-economic situation, current level of physical activity, substance use (i.e., alcohol and tobacco) and childhood trauma (i.e., physical / sexual / emotional violence, physical / emotional indifference). answered. “To index the functioning of the neuroendocrine, immune, metabolic, and cardiovascular systems,” a biological assessment was performed during a night visit to three clinics for 20 biomarkers.

Seven areas of cognitive function were measured by different batteries of neurocognitive tasks; These areas include immediate and delayed verbal episodic memory, working memory interval, verbal fluency, inductive thinking, processing speed, and attention.

“Difficulties experienced in early life are associated with impaired cognitive health in middle and later life,” D’Amico told PsyPost. “This relationship can be explained by biological disregulation caused by chronic stress in the body over time, in other words, it is called allostatic load. In the current study, these effects were evident only for the executive function (higher-order processes such as problem solving and multitasking), but not for memory function. It also affects women, not men. ”

Regarding the limitations of the study, the researcher said: “In general, the study model had a low level of stress, low allostatic load and performed well on cognitive tasks. Also, the vast majority of the model identified itself as White, which limits our ability to generalize the results of other racial and ethnic groups. This is important in aging studies, as previous studies have shown that there is a difference in risk of cognitive decline and mental retardation between racial and ethnic groups.

D’Amico added, “Another caveat is that the research design was cross-cutting – measuring early life difficulties, biological markers that make up the allostatic load score, and cognitive tasks took place at the same time. This makes it difficult for us to make causal claims based on results. People with poor performance may have fewer difficulties in early life because of poor memory.

Regarding future studies, the author said: “To see how the results are preserved in different populations, the results need to be repeated in other samples. We also want to understand how healthy behaviors can reduce the allostatic load and reduce the effects of early life difficulties and cognitive health in later years. Based on preliminary research, these healthy behaviors include stress management through physical activity, social participation, proper nutrition, and relaxation techniques.

The study, “The mediating role of allostatic load in the relationship between early life difficulties and cognitive function in adults,” found Daniel D’Amico, Maya E. Amesto, and Alexandra J. Written by Fiocco.

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