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Associate Professor Hamid Sohrabi. Photo: Murdoch University

Neurotic traits linked to dementia risk

New Australian research is looking at potential links between certain personality traits and the development of dementia.

After an initial study suggested individuals with higher neurotic traits are more at risk of developing dementia, Associate Professor Hamid Sohrabi is looking at whether screening for at-risk dementia patients is possible based on certain personality traits.

Over five years, the director of Murdoch University’s Centre for Healthy Ageing and his team studied 237 adults aged between 60 and 89 years that presented no cognitive or memory impairment.

The study looked for bio-markers – like decreased glucose metabolism – in parts of the brain that are typically associated with memory function and susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Interestingly, the results showed neuroticism, a personality trait associated with anxiety, depression and nervousness, as well as lower levels of extraversion and conscientiousness, were significantly associated with decreased glucose metabolism.”

Sohrabi added that while there were significant differences in brain functions between carriers and non-carriers of apolipoprotein E e4 allele, which is a major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, they did not differ on personality factors.

“Our findings have created a clear baseline to support further research into the underlying relationship between personality and dementia risk, so we can potentially identify those at risk much earlier.”

Next up, the researchers will measure changes in other bio-markers of Alzheimer’s disease and how they correspond to personality traits and respond to psychological interventions.

“We hope that with longer-term observational studies, we can move to clinical trials to determine whether timely psychological interventions including cognitive behaviour therapy, aimed at addressing associated personality characteristics, can delay or partially prevent the onset of the cognitive impairment,” Sohrabi said.

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