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It has been an eventful week for dementia research. Bad news – good news: a major pharmaceutical Phase 3 trial failed and a research study through the University of Michigan announced that dementia rates have fallen 24% from the year 2000 to 2012. There are another 19 trails for medication still in the Phase 3 stage, including the one I noted in  http://waystostay.org/?s=brain+genie. There have been 123 attempts to find a successful medication and only a handful have had anything but limited success in slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

One phrase does stand out from the University of Michigan research in terms of trying to have something new to latch on to. Now the phrase ‘cognitive reserves’ is the best guess they have to explain why over that 12 year period  those with more education showed less signs of dementia. They admit this is not a straight line of cause and effect and of course “there is no single magic bullet”. An older Lancet article on the subject is a bit of a challenge to read but makes more sense:https://www.ncnlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3507991/

Why are they always looking for that single causation for what is surely a combination of several factors as to why that age group (average age 75)  have shown significantly less signs of dementia. The probable cause of this better outcome for seniors is that in this particular group more people had the advantage of higher education. All those college degrees even in Liberal Arts, with the 20 page term papers gave you more critical thinking skills or just healthy brain cells?

Supposedly those with college degrees and beyond have an edge on staying  away from a dementia diagnosis because they can adapt better.  Loosely translated if you have expanded your mental faculties by having some additional higher education and more challenging occupations, when you do experience memory and  cognitive challenges, you have better coping skills.  But then you still crash and burn like everyone else…it just takes longer.

I hope they can go back and correlate other factors like amount of exercise and diet that are more directly under our control. Maybe just living in this time period when things got so much more complicated in terms of communication and dealing with information online helped. In that time frame I learned how to text, how smart my phones(s) really were and how handy a computer tablet can be if you know how to use it.  If you keep embracing newer technologies, you have to stretch your thinking skills.

So again, I feel that important research only generates more questions. They will continue to monitor this same group of people as they continue to age. Please note the authors of the study  are now worried about the fact that the age cohort after the boomers have actually had less education and that there maybe there will be a return to higher rates of dementia.  A case for public education from K through at least 14?

All those cheaper college classes back in the sixties and seventies may give us some minimal advantage.  But we still the part of the population with the highest number of the people who will suffer the effects of dementia thus potentially swamping the resources out there. So along with those long walks, a healthy diet, free online classes and social activities or maybe just working forever, we still need to figure out for ourselves how to keep the think tank full.