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TRAUMA’S LASTING LEGACY
CHILDHOOD STRESS MIGHT BE ASSOCIATED WITH DEMENTIA
IN ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
have some of the poorest health outcomes
of Indigenous populations globally, with
higher rates of injury, mental health
conditions, chronic disease and dementia.
A new Australian study, recently
published in the American Journal of
Geriatric Psychiatry, has found that
high levels of childhood stress and
hardship might be linked to the higher
rates of dementia found amongst
The research team, led by Dr Kylie
Radford of Neuroscience Research
Australia in Sydney, recruited 336
Indigenous Australians from New South
Wales aged between 60 and 92 to
complete a life course survey known as the
Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ).
The questionnaire asked participants
about a range of childhood experiences,
assessing the frequency of both
positive (loving and supportive family
environment) and negative (neglectful or
abusive environment) experiences using
a point-based scale.
After analysing all results and factoring
in other health related disorders, the
researchers found participants who had
high childhood stress scores were more
likely to have gone through depression,
anxiety and suicide attempts, with many
having received a diagnosis of dementia,
more specifically Alzheimer’s disease.
These results indicate that childhood
stress amongst Indigenous Australians
appears to have a significant impact on
emotional health and increased rates of
dementia in later life.
The research team is now aiming to
undertake further studies to explore why
this might be the case.
Dr Kylie Radford says that the
ongoing effects of childhood stress
need to be recognised as people grow
older, particularly in terms of dementia
prevention and care, as well as amongst
populations with greater exposure to
This study also states that greater
support for parents, recognition and
treatment of childhood trauma and
post-traumatic stress disorders,
enhanced education services for
Indigenous Australians, and more
awareness of these issues for dementia
caregivers and service providers are
some components that could assist in
bringing down the rates of dementia
amongst Indigenous Australians.
This research also contributes to a
growing body of evidence suggesting
adverse early-life events increase
dementia risk in older age. In the June
edition of Dementia Now we reported
on how negative family relationships
during early life can be linked to
dementia in later life.
A new Australian study has found that high brain iron
and amyloid beta levels are associated with a ‘quicker’
Melbourne-based researchers Dr Scott Ayton and
Professor Ashley Bush analysed the brain scans and
cognitive tests of 117 participants who were taking part
in the Australian Imaging and Biomarker Lifestyle (AIBL)
study. The findings were published in the journal Brain.
Participants with both high iron and high amyloid beta
levels in the
brain (a sign
found to have
those with low
brain iron and
beta levels. This has led the researchers to believe that
high brain iron levels might be a sign of Alzheimer’s
However, Dr Ayton says there isn’t evidence that the
amount of iron we eat has any bearing on the amount of
iron in our brain.
“The brain is separated from the rest of your body via
the blood-brain-barrier. This is a good thing, because we
wouldn’t want our brain to be spiked with iron every time
we eat a steak,” he says.
More simply, the research has found that iron is another
marker that could identify disease progression.
This study is a positive step in understanding what
causes Alzheimer’s disease and opens a potential new
avenue for treatment identification.
According to Dr Ayton, the only way we know how
to lower the amount of iron in the brain is by using an
iron-binding drug that can enter the brain.
“We will be testing whether this has a benefit for
people living with Alzheimer’s disease in an upcoming
clinical trial,” he says.
IRON AND BRAIN FUNCTION
NEW RESEARCH LOOKS AT THE ROLE OF IRON
LEVELS IN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.
15/8/17 3:31 pm
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