Under the Hood

5 Personality Traits That Delay Or Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Neurodegenerative diseases affect one's balance, movement, talking, breathing, heart function and other bodily activities. Most of these are genetic in nature. Sometimes, these diseases are caused by medical conditions such as alcoholism, a stroke or a tumor. Others may be caused by toxins, chemicals and viruses, or simply have no cause at all. Whatever the causes, they can be serious and even life-threatening, affecting millions of people around the world.

One of these neurodegenerative diseases is Alzheimer's disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases in the country. Though there is currently no developed cure for Alzheimer's, researchers have pointed toward various risk factors, ranging from lifestyle factors to chronic diseases. 

However, a study conducted by scientists at the University of Geneva and the Geneva University Hospitals found that personality traits might have a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. More accurately, it found specific personality traits that have protective effects on brain aging, delaying or preventing this progressively deadly neurodegenerative disease.

The Personality Traits That Make A Brain Healthy

Published in the monthly scientific journal Neurobiology of Aging, the study evaluated a group of 65 adults aged 65 and above. Using brain imaging scans and personality and cognitive assessments, it linked the following personality traits to a healthy, well-protected brain: 

  • Being less agreeable
  • Being naturally curious 
  • Being a non-conformist 
  • Being confrontational 
  • Being open-minded 

Adults possessing these personality traits showed lower brain loss in the hippocampus, amygdala and mesial temporal lobe. Along with the entorhinal cortex and precuneus, these brain regions are all associated with Alzheimer's disease, and thus critical to brain health. The memory circuits found within those regions stayed healthy and intact compared to people with more agreeable personalities. 

"We already knew that the desire to learn and interest in the world around us protects against cerebral aging," Panteleimon Giannakopoulos, lead researcher, said. However, some of the listed personality traits are negative in nature, and these caused Giannakopoulos to raise an important question: Should people adapt to others at their own expense?

Why Is It Important? 

Since early identification is important to help fight and manage all kinds of diseases, discovering biomarkers for Alzheimer's such as personality traits can help lead to treatment options. 

The study proved that though healthy diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes can help protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, these might have little effect without the right personality traits to accompany them.

"If it seems difficult to profoundly change one's personality, especially at an advanced age, taking it into account can be helpful for creating personalized treatments. [...] It’s an important part of a complex puzzle," the study authors wrote.

Alzheimer's Image Nacho Doce/Reuters

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