August 28, 2019 – Stress and Memory


Anchor lead: Does a stress reaction explain why women experience dementia more often than men? Elizabeth Tracey reports

One in six women over 60 will develop Alzheimer’s disease while 1 in 11 men will do so, the Alzheimer’s Association says. Now a new Johns Hopkins study led by Cynthia Munro may help explain why women are more likely to develop the condition than men.

Munro: I went in with the idea that there should be an effect of stress on memory and that it should be in women but not in men, and that’s what we found. I was actually really surprised that it turned out that way because the women at follow up were younger than what you would expect to have dementia, they were in their early sixties. But to see sort of the incipient memory decline related to stress is really exciting because maybe we can intervene. Maybe there’s something we can do to prevent that memory decline.  :29

Munro’s study linked stressful life events to impaired memory in a study of more than 900 Baltimore adults who’ve been followed since the early 1980s. Isolated traumatic events had less impact than those that continued over time, such as divorce, the research shows. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.