Self-reflection is associated with improved late-life cognition and brain health

Summary: A new study shows that a person’s ability to self-reflect is linked to later life cognition and glucose metabolism. Those who engaged in more self-reflection experienced better cognition, better brain health, and later increased glucose metabolism.

A source: UCL

Self-reflection is positively associated with late-life cognition as well as glucose metabolism, a marker of brain health, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

authors of a new study published in neurologysay that elderly people who engage in self-reflection may have a reduced risk of dementia.

Lead author, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences. student Harriet Demnitz-King (UCL Psychiatry) says: “There is increasing evidence that positive psychological factors such as purpose in life and conscientiousness can reduce the risk of dementia.

Finding further ways to reduce the risk of dementia is an urgent priority, so we hope that improving the ability to think independently will be a useful tool to help people stay cognitively healthy as they age.

“Anyone can engage in self-expression and the extent to which they can express themselves, as it is independent of physical health or socioeconomic factors.”

The study used cross-sectional data (rather than reporting the results of trial interventions) from two clinical trials, Age-Well and SCD-Well, involving a total of 259 participants aged 69 and 73 years. They answered reflective questions. thinking, measure how often you think about them and try to understand their thoughts and feelings.

The researchers found that people who engaged in more self-reflection showed better cognition and improved glucose metabolism, as shown by brain imaging. The researchers found no link between the amyloid deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain.

Previous studies have shown that self-reflection skills can be improved with a recently tested psychological intervention, and researchers say such a program may be beneficial for people at risk of dementia.

Harriet Demnitz-King explained: “Other studies have found evidence that self-reflective thinking styles lead to greater adaptation to stress, and even improved inflammatory responses to stress and improved cardiovascular health, so self-reflection may be .improve our resilience against cognitive decline.

Although they caution that their findings suggest that engaging in self-reflection can help preserve cognition, they cannot rule out the possibility that cognitively healthy individuals may also be capable of self-reflection, and suggest that more longitudinal research is needed. determining the direction of causality.

Senior writer Dr. Natalie Marchant (UCL Psychiatry) says: “As disease-modifying treatments are not yet available, it is important to find ways to prevent dementia; By identifying which factors are more likely to lead to dementia or cognitive decline, we can develop ways to target these factors and reduce the risk of dementia.”

“Self-reflection has been linked to other benefits, such as recovery from depression and improved cardiovascular health, so while we can’t confirm exactly how it might affect cognitive decline, there is other evidence that shows its general benefits.”

The researchers found that people who engaged in more self-reflection showed better cognition and improved glucose metabolism, as shown by brain imaging. Image is in the public domain

Previous studies by Dr. Marchan found that repetitive negative thinking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, while mindfulness can improve cognition in older adults.

Dr. Alzheimer’s Society Deputy Director of Research Richard Oakley commented: “In this study, researchers have shown for the first time that self-reflection—thinking about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—is associated with better brain function in specific brain regions. suffer from mental disorders.’

“Although more research is needed to fully understand the implications of this finding, if self-reflection is having a positive effect on brain function, there is a chance that one day psychological treatments that help people build healthier lives can reduce the risk of dementia.” thought patterns”.

“The number of people living with dementia in the UK is set to rise to 1.6 million by 2040 – although the Government has pledged to double funding for dementia research, researchers can explore all the ways to reduce the risk.”

This is a research report on aging and self-reflection

Author: Chris Lane
A source: UCL
The connection: Chris Lane – UCL
Photo: Image is in the public domain

See also

This shows a diagram of the study

Original research: Closed access.
Harriet Demnitz-King et al. neurology


Associations between self-concept, cognition, and brain health in cognitively intact older adults

Background and objectives: Self-reflection (the active evaluation of one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) may provide protection against negative health outcomes. Its effect on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) susceptibility markers is unknown. The primary objective of this cross-sectional study was to examine the relationship between self-report and AD susceptibility markers.

Methods: This study used baseline data from older adults with subjective cognitive decline who participated in the Age-Well clinical trial and from the SCD-Well clinical trial. In both cohorts, self-reflection was measured by the reflective thinking subscale of the Rumination Response Scale, global cognition assessed by the Preclinical Alzheimer’s Cognitive Composite 5, and the Life-Changed Lifestyles for Brain-Health (LIBRA) index. assessment of health and lifestyle factors.

In Age-Well, glucose metabolism and amyloid deposition were quantified in AD-sensitive gray matter regions using FDG- and AV45-PET scans, respectively. Associations between self-report and AD susceptibility markers (global cognition, glucose metabolism, and amyloid deposition) were assessed using unadjusted and adjusted regressions. Further, we examined whether the associations were independent of health and lifestyle factors. Adjusted the false discovery rate to control for multiple comparisons in Age-Well P– values ​​(PFDR) is reported.

Results: A total of 134 (mean age 69.3 ± 3.8 years, 61.9% female) Age-Well and 125 (mean age 72.6 ± 6.9 years, 65.6% female) SCD-Well participants were included. In both unadjusted and adjusted analyses, self-report was positively associated with global cognition in both cohorts (Age-Well: adjusted-β = 0.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.05-0.40, PFDR = 0.041; SCD-Well: Adjusted-β = 0.18, 95% CI 0.03–0.33, P = 0.023) and after adjusting for all covariates with glucose metabolism in Age-Well (adjusted-β = 0.29, 95% CI 0.03–0.55, PFDR = 0.041). Associations remained after additional adjustment for LIBRA but did not survive FDR correction. Self-expression is not associated with amyloid binding (corrected-β = 0.13, 95% CI -0.07-0.34, PFDR = 0.189).

Discussion: Self-reflection was associated with better global cognition and higher glucose metabolism after adjustment for covariates in two independent cohorts. There was weak evidence that the relationship was independent of health and lifestyle behaviors. Longitudinal and experimental studies are warranted to determine whether self-reflection preserves cognition and glucose metabolism, or whether reduced self-reflection is a predictor of cognitive decline and glucose hypometabolism.

Trial registration: Age-Well: NCT02977819; SCD-Well: NCT03005652

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