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Who knew that dementia or cognitive functioning depends on the weather! But a recent study has proven exactly that. And to the surprise of many, the researchers found that adults, both with and without Alzheimer's disease, have better cognition skills in the late summer and early fall than in the winter and spring.
according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Andrew Lim of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues.
Very few previous studies have proven the link between season and cognition in older adults. But this new research has opened a new horizon for treatment as well as diagnosis of dementia.
For the study, published in PLOS Medicine, the researchers analysed data on 3,353 individuals who were a part of three different cohort studies in the U.S., Canada and France. All the participants had undergone neuropsychological tests, and there were a few of them whose levels of proteins and genes had signs of Alzheimer's disease.
After analysing the data, the researchers found that average cognitive functioning was higher in the summer and fall than the winter and spring, equal in cognitive effect to 4.8 years difference in age-related decline.
The teams also found that the odds of being diagnosed with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment or dementia were also higher in the winter and spring than summer or fall. The link between season and cognitive function was equally important when the data was controlled for potential variables like depression, sleep, physical activity, and thyroid status. Association with seasonality was also seen in levels of Alzheimer's-related proteins and genes in the brain.
One thing that needs to be noted here is that the study was limited by the fact that each participant was only assessed once per year, and the data included individuals only from northern-hemisphere regions, and not from other regions of the world.
"There may be value in increasing dementia-related clinical resources in the winter and early spring when symptoms are likely to be most pronounced," the authors said in the study. "By shedding light on the mechanisms underlying the seasonal improvement in cognition in the summer and early fall, these findings also open the door to new avenues of treatment for Alzheimer's disease," the concluded in the study.
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