Nav: Home

Neighborhood features and one's genetic makeup interact to affect cognitive function

February 19, 2020

The neighborhood environment may positively or negatively influence one's ability to maintain cognitive function with age. Since older adults spend less time outside, the neighborhood environment increases in importance with age. Studies suggest physical aspects of the neighborhood such as the availability of sidewalks and parks, and more social and walking destinations, may be associated with better cognitive functioning. Beneficial neighborhood environments can provide spaces for exercise, mental stimulation, socializing and reducing stress. To date, few studies have examined how the neighborhood's physical environment relates to cognition in older adults.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and collaborators conducted one of the first known studies to examine how cognitive functioning is affected differently by the neighborhood environment depending on one's apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype - a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). For the study, researchers categorized 4,716 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis as carriers of APOEε2 (lower AD risk), APOEε4 (higher AD risk), and APOEε3, the most common variant, which is considered to have neutral risk for developing AD.

Results of the study, published in the journal Health & Place, suggest that the cognitive benefits of living in neighborhoods with greater access to social, walking and retail destinations may be limited to individuals with a reduced genetic risk for cognitive decline, specifically APOE ε2 carriers.

"The positive influence of neighborhood environments on cognition may be strongest among individuals who are at the lowest risk for Alzheimer's disease," said Lilah M. Besser, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., senior author who led the study, an assistant professor in FAU's School of Urban and Regional Planning within the College for Social Design and Inquiry, and a member of the FAU Brain Institute (I-BRAIN). "The risk of cognitive decline among APOE ε4 carriers may be difficult to overcome even when living in beneficial neighborhood environments."

AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and more than 5.8 million Americans are living with the disease. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million. According to the Alzheimer's Association, in 2019, AD and other dementias cost the nation $290 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise as high as $1.1 trillion.

"Research on the potential influences of the neighborhood environment on cognition and brain aging can help inform recommendations for neighborhood improvements to simultaneously address population growth and healthy brain aging," said Besser. "Knowledge of how the neighborhood environment may affect cognition differentially depending on one's genetic makeup will be important to inform such recommendations."
-end-
Study co-authors are James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H.; Daniel A. Rodriguez, Ph.D., University of California, Berkley; Teresa Seaman, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles; Walter A. Kukull, Ph.D., University of Washington; Stephen R. Rapp, Ph.D., Wake Forest School of Medicine; and Jennifer Smith, Ph.D., M.P.H., University of Michigan.

This work was supported by funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research Program and the National Institutes of Health (NHLBI grant R01HL071759).

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU's world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU's existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit fau.edu.

Florida Atlantic University

Related Cognitive Decline Articles:

Metformin treatment linked to slowed cognitive decline
A six-year study of older Australians with type 2 diabetes has uncovered a link between metformin use, slower cognitive decline and lower dementia rates.
Examining association between sleep duration, cognitive decline
Researchers in this observational study investigated the association between the amount of sleep at night and cognitive decline among participants in two large studies on aging.
Lifestyle improvements may lessen cognitive decline
Results from a new study suggest that lifestyle changes may help to improve cognition in older adults experiencing cognitive decline that precedes dementia.
Baby boomers show concerning decline in cognitive functioning
In a reversal of trends, American baby boomers scored lower on a test of cognitive functioning than did members of previous generations, according to a new nationwide study.
Memory loss reversed or abated in those with cognitive decline
Affirmativ Health sought to determine whether a comprehensive and personalized program, designed to mitigate risk factors of Alzheimer's disease could improve cognitive and metabolic function in individuals experiencing cognitive decline.
Delirium may cause long term cognitive decline
A new meta-analysis of 24 observational studies from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons found that delirium may cause significant long-term cognitive decline.
Is delirium associated with long-term cognitive decline?
The results of 23 studies were combined to examine whether an episode of delirium is a risk factor for long-term cognitive decline.
Maintaining heart health may protect against cognitive decline
People with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease have increased cognitive decline, including an increase in typical markers of Alzheimer's disease, suggesting that monitoring and controlling for heart disease may be key to maintaining and improving cognitive health later in life, according to research published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Hearing aids may delay cognitive decline, research finds
Wearing hearing aids may delay cognitive decline in older adults and improve brain function, according to promising new research.
Walnuts may slow cognitive decline in at-risk elderly
Eating walnuts may help slow cognitive decline in at-risk groups of the elderly population, according to a study conducted by researchers in California and Spain.
More Cognitive Decline News and Cognitive Decline Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.