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SkepticDoc
04-02-2010, 05:09 PM
From Medscape Medical News
Purpose in Life May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

Allison Gandey

March 3, 2010 — Elderly people with a strong sense of purpose in life are almost 2½ times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease (AD), report researchers.

The new finding adds to emerging data suggesting that psychological and experiential factors are associated with cognitive impairment.

"Our results suggest that positive factors, such as having a sense of goal-directedness that guides behavior, may provide a buffer against negative health outcomes, particularly in old age," coauthor Lisa Barnes, PhD, from the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, told Medscape Psychiatry.

"These results are important because of the potential public health implications," she noted. "Purpose in life is something we can actually modify in old age by giving older adults specific strategies they can use to find meaning in activities, achieve purposes, and goals."

The study is published in the March issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Less Cognitive Impairment
Dr. Patricia Boyle

Investigators conducted a prospective, longitudinal, epidemiologic study of more than 900 community-dwelling, older people without dementia.

The group, led by Patricia Boyle, PhD, also at Rush University, evaluated purpose in life and a mean of 4 years of detailed annual follow-up clinical evaluations. Participants were from the Rush Memory and Aging Project.

Just more than 16% of the study population developed AD. In a proportional hazards model adjusted for age, sex, and education, investigators found that a greater purpose in life was associated with a substantially reduced risk for disease. The hazard ratio was 0.48, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.33 to 0.69 (P < .001).

In subsequent analyses, Dr. Boyle and her team examined the association of purpose in life with mild cognitive impairment, an early preclinical manifestation of AD.

They found that purpose in life also reduced the risk for incident cognitive impairment. The hazard ratio was 0.71, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.53 to 0.95 (P = .02).

"We cannot establish causality with certainty," Dr. Barnes said. "However, we found that purpose in life was protective against Alzheimer's disease even after adjusting for important factors, such as depressive symptoms, neuroticism, social networks, and number of chronic medical conditions. It also persisted in sensitivity analyses in which we sequentially excluded persons who developed Alzheimer's disease during each of the first 3 years of follow-up."

This, Dr. Barnes explains, was to address concerns that perhaps those in the cohort had undiagnosed or mild AD.

"Although our ability to infer causation may be limited, these kinds of additional controls strengthen our confidence in the findings," she noted.

Psychological Well-Being

Another recent study found that a sense of purpose in life was the most important factor in determining mental health outcomes after serious trauma (Am J Psychiatry. 2008;165:1566-1575).

"We found that the most important psychosocial factor associated with resilience or recovered status was a sense of higher purpose in life," Adriana Feder, MD, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City, told Medscape Psychiatry when the study was first published online in November. "We also found that mastery, or having a strong sense of control over one's life, was significantly associated with recovered status."

This new study is reportedly the first to evaluate purpose in life and the risk for AD, but the investigators have evaluated other health outcomes in this same cohort and observed a reduced risk for death.

"Purpose in life is an indicator of human thriving that has been hypothesized to be related to better psychological well-being," Dr. Barnes said.

This study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Robert C Borwell Endowment Fund. The researchers have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:304-310.
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Authors and Disclosures
Journalist
Allison Gandey

Allison Gandey is a journalist for Medscape. She is the former science affairs analyst for the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Allison, who has a master of journalism specializing in science from Carleton University, has edited a variety of medical association publications and has worked in radio and television. She can be contacted at agandey@webmd.net.

Medscape Medical News © 2010 Medscape, LLC
Send press releases and comments to news@medscape.net.

If consciousness can change a biophysical process, could it be evidence of a non-physical essence?

uncle ebeneezer
04-02-2010, 05:59 PM
SkepDoc, couldn't this just be a case of the old addage of keeping fit being good for your health, as applied to the exercise of the brain? I guess I'm having trouble imagining a study where group A and B are both mentally active to the same capacity and doing the same sorts of things (using same parts of brain etc.) but group A believes in a purpose whereas group B doesn't. As to whether spiritual endeavors might stimulate different portions of the brain than other activities, this seems to me to be pretty likely.

claymisher
04-02-2010, 06:05 PM
I can't wait for the obvious follow-up: tell one group of old folks to be extra sure to have a purpose in life, and another to deliberately stop having any purpose.

In other science news, I'm going to use the awesome power of my mind to transform physical matter (by directing my hands and mouth to eat a slice of pizza).

SkepticDoc
04-02-2010, 06:05 PM
There is evidence that exercise like square dancing reduces the risk for Alzheimer's, is it the physical activity or being interactive in a group that brings about the benefit?

Now, if we could show that participating in the BhTv forum helps...!

Ocean
04-02-2010, 06:10 PM
If consciousness can change a biophysical process, could it be evidence of a non-physical essence?

I don't know how you would get from the study to the above statement.

In terms of the study, for what I read in your post, I don't see causality but correlation. How did they define purpose in life? What's is the proposed mechanism? The fact that they controlled for multiple variables doesn't solve the problem of causality.

Ocean
04-02-2010, 06:11 PM
There is evidence that exercise like square dancing reduces the risk for Alzheimer's, ...

And I can't even tell you what happens if you dance tango...

SkepticDoc
04-02-2010, 06:11 PM
The real scientific question is: do people with a purpose are just more resistant to neurodegenerative processes and that allows them to be more functional?

In other words, is having a purpose just a manifestation of mental health?

Ocean
04-02-2010, 06:12 PM
The real scientific question is: do people with a purpose are just more resistant to neurodegenerative processes and that allows them to be more functional?

In other words, is having a purpose just a manifestation of mental health?

Do you have a purpose?

SkepticDoc
04-02-2010, 06:14 PM
My purpose is to reach enlightenment, Nirvana...

Ocean
04-02-2010, 06:29 PM
My purpose is to reach enlightenment, Nirvana...

Chop wood, carry water. It will decrease risk factors. ;)

uncle ebeneezer
04-02-2010, 06:30 PM
Oh we know where the tango leads... ;)

Ocean
04-02-2010, 06:31 PM
Oh we know where the tango leads... ;)

It's good for your health.

uncle ebeneezer
04-02-2010, 06:54 PM
I'll bet.

Not a tango, but thought you might enjoy this (http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=A1D92AB5786FC431&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&v=xhqWtMm7r4s). Saw him Tuesday night and he was amazing.

Ocean
04-02-2010, 07:00 PM
I'll bet.

Not a tango, but thought you might enjoy this (http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=A1D92AB5786FC431&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&v=xhqWtMm7r4s). Saw him Tuesday night and he was amazing.

Do you know the original song from "Dona Flor e seus dois maridos"? Sorry, I don't know the name in English.

popcorn_karate
04-02-2010, 07:03 PM
great article, SD.

I think belief/hope/faith are all important and provide a lot of benefit in people's lives and health.

I don't think it matters whether you believe in atheism and have a definitive purpose of spreading that belief, or believe in god and want to convert people to your religion, or believe in weed and feel fulfilled by getting everyone you meet high - its the process of believing and implementing those beliefs that provides the benefit ( I suspect BJ is healthier for his quest to point out the stupidity of his political opponents too, for that matter).

I suspect that points toward some very odd properties of consciousness, but don't see how it provides evidence for non-physical attributes or processes. It could be that whatever the brain is doing physically while you experience these states is the important part.

Ocean
04-02-2010, 07:07 PM
I suspect that points toward some very odd properties of consciousness, but don't see how it provides evidence for non-physical attributes or processes. It could be that whatever the brain is doing physically while you experience these states is the important part.

Yes, I agree with that.

kezboard
04-02-2010, 07:19 PM
I agree. Couldn't this be evidence that the same things that predispose someone to get Alzheimer's also predispose them to being a bummed out person with no sense of purpose, as opposed to that having a sense of purpose keeps you from getting Alzheimer's?

By the way, every time I read articles touting the benefits of a positive attitude, my initial reaction is dubiousness, then fear that my dubiousness is evidence of a negative attitude that indicates my sickly nature, then irritation at the authors of the article for promoting positive attitudes in such an underhanded way, and then I end up even more negative than before.

Wonderment
04-02-2010, 07:37 PM
The really absurd aspect of the article was the hype from Dr. Barnes:


"These results are important because of the potential public health implications," she noted. "Purpose in life is something we can actually modify in old age by giving older adults specific strategies they can use to find meaning in activities, achieve purposes, and goals."

What could that even mean?

I hate to beat up on scientific research, but this one really seems a waste of money. Surely common sense tells us that it's better for 90-year-old Uncle Elvis to plan a trip around the world, work with his local charity or take some night courses than to sit in the dark at home and stare at his shoes.

uncle ebeneezer
04-02-2010, 07:48 PM
Surely common sense tells us that it's better for 90-year-old Uncle Elvis to plan a trip around the world, work with his local charity or take some night courses than to sit in the dark at home and stare at his shoes.

It's healthier for 36 year-old Uncle Ebeneezer too!!

Agreed...common sense. Exercise brain, less brain problems.

claymisher
04-02-2010, 07:56 PM
It's healthier for 36 year-old Uncle Ebeneezer too!!

Agreed...common sense. Exercise brain, less brain problems.

New Theory of Alzheimer’s: Brain’s Memory Center Is “Overworked” (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2009/04/07/new-theory-of-alzheimers-brains-memory-center-is-overworked/):

Young adults with a genetic variant that increases their chance of developing Alzheimer’s later in life also have increased activity in the section of their brain devoted to memory, a new study has found. Researchers say the results suggest that the memory portion of the brain, the hippocampus, may eventually get worn out from a lifetime of overuse.

graz
04-02-2010, 08:01 PM
By the way, every time I read articles touting the benefits of a positive attitude, my initial reaction is dubiousness, then fear that my dubiousness is evidence of a negative attitude that indicates my sickly nature, then irritation at the authors of the article for promoting positive attitudes in such an underhanded way, and then I end up even more negative than before.

And thank you for that bit of absurdist humor which lifted my skepticism, if only for a moment. I'm always wary of anyone telling me about the pow-pow-power of positive thinking. Tell me something I don't know.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWEKq_i6IZQ

Ocean
04-02-2010, 08:13 PM
I agree. Couldn't this be evidence that the same things that predispose someone to get Alzheimer's also predispose them to being a bummed out person with no sense of purpose, as opposed to that having a sense of purpose keeps you from getting Alzheimer's?

Yes, that's possible.


By the way, every time I read articles touting the benefits of a positive attitude, my initial reaction is dubiousness, then fear that my dubiousness is evidence of a negative attitude that indicates my sickly nature, then irritation at the authors of the article for promoting positive attitudes in such an underhanded way, and then I end up even more negative than before.

Well, there is one unarguable benefit of a positive attitude and that is at the exact moment when you are experiencing it, don't you think? You start to add up more and more of those moments, with all the physiological balance that comes with them, and who knows? It can't be too bad for your health.

Now proving it is another story.

JonIrenicus
04-02-2010, 09:35 PM
The real scientific question is: do people with a purpose are just more resistant to neurodegenerative processes and that allows them to be more functional?

In other words, is having a purpose just a manifestation of mental health?

I remember hearing/reading about some of the details of alzheimers somewhere and it may not be that higher mental activity prevents the disease so much as delay symptoms.

The more mentally active you are the more plastic your brain, the greater your tendency to make new connections in your brain. Admirable, losing brain power and compensating by simply rewiring the connections due to increased activity... until a wall is hit, and the inevitable decline comes.

Or not, just something I heard somewhere.

SkepticDoc
04-02-2010, 10:52 PM
Probably Joseph Campbell had the best advice" "Follow your Bliss", whatever that is!

If we could motivate everybody to pursue whatever they want (as long as it does not infringe on other's "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"!) the whole world could be a better place.

SkepticDoc
04-02-2010, 11:00 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLDaCtqk-So

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dona_Flor_and_Her_Two_Husbands

Ocean
04-02-2010, 11:06 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLDaCtqk-So

Oh, Vadinho...

uncle ebeneezer
04-03-2010, 12:15 AM
To show off the amazing plasticity of the brain I will now completely change my view. Conserve your brain energy. Don't read, only watch reality shows and FoxNews. Keep that brain immobile!!

kezboard
04-03-2010, 10:30 AM
If we could motivate everybody to pursue whatever they want (as long as it does not infringe on other's "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"!) the whole world could be a better place.

SkepticDoc clearly has very high self-expression values (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Values_Survey).

Ocean
04-03-2010, 11:01 AM
SkepticDoc clearly has very high self-expression values (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Values_Survey).

For obvious reason (country of origin) I noticed that Uruguay was placed inside what appears to be Catholic Europe, while the rest of Latin America is separate. I'll assume that the colored areas are not geographical boundaries but cultural boundaries.

SkepticDoc
04-03-2010, 12:08 PM
Well, thank you! (I think...)

Wonderment
04-03-2010, 02:52 PM
For obvious reason (country of origin) I noticed that Uruguay was placed inside what appears to be Catholic Europe, while the rest of Latin America is separate. I'll assume that the colored areas are not geographical boundaries but cultural boundaries.

I assumed the mapmaker couldn't tell Uruguay from Iceland. The big giveaway was that Argentina made it into Latin America. :)

SkepticDoc
04-03-2010, 05:11 PM
I am under the impression that Uruguay has the lowest incidence of government corruption and is the birthplace of great Humanist thinkers.

Wonderment
04-03-2010, 07:01 PM
...is the birthplace of great Humanist thinkers.

Al menos una.

SkepticDoc
04-03-2010, 08:29 PM
And Eduardo Galeano!

Ocean
04-03-2010, 08:47 PM
I am under the impression that Uruguay has the lowest incidence of government corruption and is the birthplace of great Humanist thinkers.

Si.

Ocean
04-03-2010, 08:48 PM
Al menos una.

Si.

Ocean
04-03-2010, 08:48 PM
And Eduardo Galeano!

Si.