‘Bad’ neighbourhood linked to worse cognitive function in some older adults

March 8th, 2011 - 6:43 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 8 (ANI): A new study has warned that living in a psychosocially hazardous neighbourhood could worsen the cognitive function in older age for persons with the apolipoprotein E e4 allele (an alternative form of the gene).

The researchers noted that while this gene is critical for basic neurological processes relevant to non-demented neurological health, a certain mutation of this gene has also previously been linked to a higher risk for the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Brian K. Lee of Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, and colleagues analysed data from the Baltimore Memory Study on 1,124 urban residents living in 63 Baltimore neighbourhoods.

All of the study participants were between the ages of 50 and 70. About 54 percent were white and nearly 42 percent were African American.

Psychosocially hazardous neighbourhoods are defined as areas that ‘give rise to a heightened state of vigilance, alarm, or fear in residents that may lead to a biological stress response’.

As a whole, 30.4 percent of the study subjects were found to carry at least one e4 allele. However, African Americans were more likely to carry the mutation than whites (37.3 percent versus 24.7 percent, respectively).

Before adjustment for outside factors (such as race, sex, wealth, etc.), participants living in the most psychosocially hazardous neighbourhoods performed substantially worse in all seven cognitive domains tested (language, processing speed, eye-hand coordination, executive functioning, verbal memory and learning, visual memory, and visuoconstruction).

In adjusted analysis with both neighbourhood and APOE terms, persons living in the most psychosocially hazardous neighbourhoods scored lower only on eye-hand coordination than other participants.

APOE e4 was associated with worse performance in executive function and visuoconstruction.

“Our findings provide evidence that among persons with the APOE e4 allele, cognitive performance in processing speed and executive function was significantly worse for persons residing in neighbourhoods with higher levels of psychosocial hazards, with additional suggestive evidence for eye-hand coordination,” said the authors.

Additionally, for genetically vulnerable persons, a psychosocially hazardous neighbourhood environment may be detrimental for cognitive function in aging, they concluded.

The observation is reported in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. (ANI)

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