Does repetitive negative thinking lead to dementia? New UCL-led study investigates
Repetitive negative thinking in later life may raise a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to study results published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
The study researchers believe repetitive negative thinking is a potential risk factor for dementia.
Over a period of 2 years, study participants over the age of 55 were asked about their thought process concerning negative experience, with an emphasis on repetitive negative thinking patters. Depression and anxiety symptoms were also measured.
Participants who had higher RNT patterns were more likely to have cognitive decline over a 4-year period, a decline in memory, and more amyloid and tau deposits in their brain.
Although depression and anxiety were linked with subsequent cognitive decline they were not associated with amyloid or tau deposition, leading researchers to suggest that repetitive negative thoughts could be why depression and anxiety contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk.
“Depression and anxiety in mid-life and old age are already known to be risk factors for dementia. Here, we found that certain thinking patterns implicated in depression and anxiety could be an underlying reason why people with those disorders are more likely to develop dementia,” said lead author Dr Natalie Marchant in a statement. “Taken alongside other studies, which link depression and anxiety with dementia risk, we expect that chronic negative thinking patterns over a long period of time could increase the risk of dementia. We do not think the evidence suggests that short-term setbacks would increase one’s risk of dementia. We hope that our findings could be used to develop strategies to lower people’s risk of dementia by helping them to reduce their negative thinking patterns.”
Marchant NL, Lovland LR, Jones R, et al. Repetitive negative thinking is associated with amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline. Alzheimers Dement. 2020; https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.12116